Superintendent Blog Post - June 19, 2020

Posted by Victoria Jackson on 6/19/2020

Dear Beacon Community:

I wanted to take an opportunity to first thank you for your support of the budget vote and to also update the community on some things.  I also want to wish folks a happy Juneteenth!  Here is one of many websites that tells you much more about the holiday: .  

I know we all have a lot on our minds.  

First, I want to talk about steps the district has taken or will take in regards to race and equity in our schools.  The crisis of systemic racism was exposed once again in our country for all to see, not just to the people who experience it.  When I started here in Beacon three short years ago, I used the phrase”listen, learn, lead” and I have been reflecting a lot on that phrase lately.  I have learned a lot in my three years here but I am not done learning or listening.  I think the most important action the district should take right now is to dramatically increase the amount of student voice we have in our work and to create safe spaces this summer and beyond for it to be expressed.

Some Initial Action steps to Creating a More Welcoming and Affirming District:

  1. We will work with Dutchess Mediation this summer to host digital or safe, in-person talking circles so our students can talk and discuss in a safe place what is on their minds right now.  If they are willing to allow some of school folks to be a part of the conversation, great, if not, that is great too.  We will be sending out more information soon about the talking circles.
  2. Create some internal working groups to review and revise curriculum through the lens of our diverse group of students and our diverse community.  We will use many resources but one we are looking at is the American Federation of Teachers Diversity Toolkit.  There are many others and will review them all.  I recognize that this work needs more defining and clarifying and we will continue to do that as we work.
  3. We created Equity Leadership Teams at each of our schools two years ago.  This upcoming year we will add students to the teams.  Their collective voice will greatly help us expand our work.
  4. Continue to train our teachers in Restorative Practices and Responsive Classroom, two community-building models for our elementary and secondary schools that help us communicate and solve problems better together.
  5. Release our Equity Report Card by the end of July, 2020.


I will discuss these ideas and more through the blog, social media, board meetings, and community meetings.  Thanks for your support and for sharing your wisdom with me.

Secondly, We are also facing a huge challenge, reopening our schools during the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.  We as a district are committed to preparing for every contingency that comes our way.  I think this upcoming year will have many challenges and we need to be ready for all of them.   I have reviewed other states that are ahead of us and it seems that there are three likely plans to prepare for:

Regular School with Health Guidelines and Checks in Place:  This plan would involve regular school with a regular schedule while implementing required state and local health guidelines.  

Hybrid School (in person mixed with distance learning):  This would be implemented if social distancing is required at school and we need to reduce the number of students in a building at any given time.  We realize that this is not helpful for working parents, but it does get students in front of teachers and with their classmates for part of the time. The idea is that students are not all in the building at the same time so they attend school either half days or every other day.  With less students in the building, we can more easily have them practice social distancing.  When they are not at school, they are completing distancing learning.  There are a number of different ways to schedule this and we will work with stakeholders and survey parents about different options this summer.

Distance Learning (Closed school again):  The hopeful part of me thinks if this is needed next year it will be for a shorter amount of time.  We will use the survey data we collected from students, parents, and teachers to develop a more effective and powerful model of distance learning that includes more interaction with classmates and teachers.  Our key takeaways were that we need more authentic learning experiences, a little more structure, more interaction, and more student accountability.  

One key thing we are waiting for is the New York school district guidelines on reopening schools.  A second key thing is that we need to all be prepared for everything and anything. Once we have this, we will work hard to get community and staff feedback on our reopening plan before we submit to the Board of Education and New York State Department of Education.

Communication Plan

I will blog weekly with the community during the length of the summer to update on all of the plans.  We will most likely conduct a survey of the community once we have the New York Reopening guidelines.  I will have community meetings with each school and some outside of school with stakeholders so we can discuss all of our work and planning.    Please reach out to me if you have any questions.  

This will be an incredibly busy and challenging summer.   We will keep you updated as we progress through this work.

Matt Landahl