School Will Not be the Same Without You
This morning we were making our final preparations to honour the amazing work of our support staff. With the current Covid-19 pandemic and economic consequences, our provincial government made a reduction in funding for all school boards, and in most cases this has led to early layoffs for support staff. In my school’s case, we are saying goodbye to our EAs, cafeteria staff, library and lab technicians, and all of our custodians but one. The hardest part of being a principal is having to say goodbye to amazing people at the end of a school year, many of whom I have built lasting friendships with over our time working together. This year, I will have to say goodbye twice….now, and then again in June. But before I get to our goodbyes, I want to take a moment to recognize how important support staff are to their school communities.
When I was an assistant principal in Edmonton back in 2012, our employer and the union representing support staff were in contract negotiations and the result was job action. It was a very difficult time for everyone. The result was for the month of September we had to function without support staff, and I can recall the impact that had on everyone. Our school year began with so many challenges and hardships, as teachers and admin tried to do the work that would normally be done by our support staff. The outcome of losing this team of amazing people for a month was that the school year began with students in classrooms, but so much else of what would normally occur was on hold. School was open, but we were missing an entire team that would help serve the needs of students, parents and work with staff to ensure they could do the same. Thankfully, the strike lasted only a few weeks and by October we were able to resume normal operations. That experience highlighted to me the absolute critical role that support staff provide in any school.
Support staff are key members of a school team who’s importance cannot be overstated. Some of the very best “educators” I have ever worked with have been Educational Assistants who provided such amazing interventions to support student development that I would often be in awe of witnessing their skills when working with students. I can recall numerous times an EA would gently calm down an upset student, constantly reassuring the student that they were safe and loved. It is our support staff that so often help preserve our students dignity in some of the most trying times. These amazing people often serve our most vulnerable population, ensure their educational experiences are positive and productive. I can recall being in awe of witnessing the tremendous education growth in students in literacy or numeracy because of the intervention that was provided by a skilled and caring member of my support staff. So many of the unique needs of students are met because of the gifts and talents that our support staff bring to their school community. Support staff are integral to the success of all students.
I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my current support staff for all they do each day to support our students, our staff and our community. But trying to articulate their impact on learning in my school is really only part of what I want to share. As stated, support staff are critical to the success of a school, but more than that, they are people who have built relationships with their colleagues, with students and with parents. They are vibrant individuals who have become interwoven into the fabric of our community. They are people that we have grown really attached to because they are key parts of our school family. Not only will we miss all they do for our students, but we will miss all they bring to our school family. Our school will not be the same without them.
Thank you to all of our amazing support staff and may God bless you on your journey.
Once a Scot, Always a Scot!