Curtis Cain, 48, who has since 2013 been accountable for the 17,300-student college district in Wentzville, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, used to be given the nationwide honor final month in Nashville at the yearly schooling convention of AASA, Faculty Superintendents Affiliation.
Cain, who’s taking over a brand new problem this summer season as superintendent of the Rockwood Faculty District within the St. Louis suburbs, which has greater than 20,000 scholars, used to be credited with capably guiding Wentzville because it changed into the quickest rising district within the state. One key initiative all through the pandemic used to be the advent of an internet psychological well being hub for college students.
Whilst accepting his award, Cain mentioned that 2022 has been tougher than the unsure moments when the pandemic first took hang in 2020 and provide traces made it laborious to seek out key staples. “It’s been like football with out shin guards,” he mentioned. ” … I’m now not certain how 2022 is worse than March of 2020, once we didn’t know the place we’re going to seek out rest room paper, however in some way it’s worse. However in some way the paintings is much more vital.”
I requested him what he supposed by way of that observation, and Cain mentioned that at first of the pandemic, the most important problem in assembly the wishes of scholars used to be now not understanding what used to be going to occur and having to modify methods time and again because the pandemic advanced.
These days, he mentioned, there are “many different components layered on most sensible of the ones previous demanding situations.” The ones come with new restrictions in Republican-led states on how historical past, race and gender are mentioned in study rooms, and, he mentioned, massive philosophical questions concerning the worth of public schooling.
“I’ve the entire self assurance on this planet that we can get despite the fact that this,” Cain mentioned, however he conceded it’s going to anything else however simple. “We’ve noticed problem ahead of,” he mentioned, “however I don’t know if we’ve noticed all of this ahead of.”
Throughout the pandemic, Cain discovered himself navigating in a in large part conservative group. In January, for instance, the Wentzville college board refused to undertake his advice that mask be required in colleges that had a three p.c coronavirus positivity price.
Later in January, the similar panel voted to take away “The Bluest Eye” by way of Nobel Prize-winning creator Toni Morrison from highschool libraries as a result of its graphic descriptions of intercourse, rape, incest and violence — however the college board reversed that call in February after a lawsuit used to be filed by way of scholars.
Edgar Nelson, essential of Liberty Prime Faculty within the district, described Cain’s navigation of those problems to AASA this fashion: “We’re an excessively conservative group. Proper at the heels of covid, we’ve been coping with [critical race theory]. Dr. Cain is in point of fact so unflappable even if individuals are screaming and yelling.”
Requested what he sees as the most important problem dealing with public schooling, Cain mentioned it’s the pipeline of ability to body of workers public colleges. Lecturers. Principals. Superintendents. Aides. Bus drivers. And so on.
“Investment will all the time be a problem we need to paintings our method via,” he mentioned. “It’s an ever-present fear that management must be thought to be. However the largest fear this is rising is the pipeline — and I don’t simply imply this concerning the superintendency.”
Body of workers shortages have hobbled the operations of many faculties this faculty yr. In some puts academics are so scarce that folks and different non-educators had been requested to fill in. Principals are doing custodial chores, and bus carrier has been seriously reduce as a result of a loss of drivers. In a single Connecticut college district, disrupted bus carrier compelled colleges to near for 2 days.
Many college districts had been looking for novel tactics to body of workers empty positions. Ways have integrated bringing again retired educators and paying out hundreds of greenbacks in bonuses or vital pay hikes as incentives for recruitment and retention. Some are hiring scholars in teacher-preparation methods ahead of they graduate — or even scholars had been requested to assist tutor their friends.
“You title the location within the college district, and individuals are gravely interested in the way forward for the pipeline,” Cain mentioned. “One of the vital reaction that educators have noticed does now not assist the problem we face. It’s staring us within the face, and I will be able to see it gaining momentum. I don’t see a transparent and blank trail of how you can deal with and hamper the pipeline factor in entrance people throughout the subsequent 5 or 10 years. I don’t see it from the chair at this time.”
The reasons of the shortages are more than one. Thousands and thousands of other people give up their jobs all through the pandemic, however superintendents say their issues are based totally in additional than that. Personal corporations will pay greater than they do — even with the federal pandemic reduction investment that Congress handed during the last few years — and demanding situations to the way in which academics do their jobs are making that place much less sexy than ever.
“I do know we’re drained,” he informed different state superintendents all through his conference speech. “I do know there are demanding situations which can be in entrance people … However public schooling is well worth the struggle.”