"Proper Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance." - British Army Adage
My dad spent two years in the United States Army and one legacy of his time in the service was his favorite phrase, the "7 P's." Not surprisingly, Dad was a big advocate of proper planning, famous for his organized manila file folders, his predilection for being at the airport at "O dark thirty," and his ability to get five children into the car on time for church, with clean fingernails, no less.
Mom reminded me of the phrase today when we were talking about school districts and their preparation for in-person teaching. Both my sister's district in California and my children's district in Colorado are trying to bring kids back into classroom for more in-person instruction. There are major differences, though, relating to planning and preparation, or lack thereof.
Here in Colorado, kids in K-5 have been in school five days per week since August, with a brief time in remote instruction between Thanksgiving and Christmas when community spread was horrendous. Students in middle and high school have been in person two days per week, except for that same holiday timeframe. The last step, which the administration hopes to take when all teachers and staff have been fully vaccinated, is to bring back the older kids four or five days per week, perhaps for April and May.
Our district did a terrific job of planning. They assessed buildings and revamped HVAC systems in the summer, mandated masks for everyone at all times on all campuses, drafted the cohort policy for the older students, and have basically followed the best science and data at all times, forging a clean pathway when none was provided by the CDC or the U.S. government. Unfortunately, our superstar superintendent will retire after this school year. (Our district will be one of five in the state looking for a new CEO). It's likely that naysayers and negative feedback played a role in his decision, though he's done everything possible to help our kids, teachers and community.
On the other side of the planning process lies my sister's district. None of their kids have been in school all year. To be fair, they adjoin a county that has seen horrendous numbers related to COVID for months. Teachers have done heroic work, shouldering full-time remote learning, emotional support, parental conferences. They learn of shifting criteria and decisions late, or not at all. In some cases, class parents tell my sister about new upcoming developments because parents were emailed before teachers.
I'm bothered by the fact that my sister has not yet had her first shot, and her kids are supposed to come back March 15. The timing is off, and so is the decision to evaluate air quality and circulation at her school just this past week. They learned in February that several of her windows are painted shut. The HVAC hasn't been touched. None of us are sure what the superintendent has been doing since August. Are we at a "piss poor performance" yet?
While I take my hat off to our district and am deeply grateful for the planning, dedication and thoughtfulness demonstrated at all levels, I am so sad to lose our fabulous superintendent. It's hard to accept that his mastery of the "7 P's" was met with blowback strong enough to force his hand. It's also difficult to accept that the poor planning of my sister's district may put her in dangerous circumstances, that in her district, parent wishes trump teacher safety. And of course, we would all be much better off if the ex-President had demonstrated any knowledge of proper planning and hadn't saddled us with the results of his piss poor performance. Perhaps if he hadn't avoided the Army, he would have known better.