Superintendent Chris Ragsdale recently gave his annual “Welcome Back” address to Cobb County School District staff and administrators.
Chief School Leadership Officer, Sherri Hill, helped kick off the virtual event on July 31 by thanking all Cobb staff for pulling together and supporting Cobb students throughout the difficult 2019-2020 school year.
“We truly are one team, with one goal—student success,” she said, encouraging and reminding everyone that the District’s motto is more than just a saying.
Ms. Hill then welcomed the Cobb Schools Superintendent to the stage. In his address, Superintendent Ragsdale provided comfort, support, and optimism to thousands of viewers from across the District. In his trademark straightforward way of speaking, Cobb’s Superintendent spoke from the heart, directing his talk straight to the upcoming challenges of the 2020-2021 school year.
The primary question on everyone’s mind was his decision to move the District to a “remote-only” teaching and learning environment for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Speaking remotely himself, the Superintendent broke the ice quickly, showing he was able to sympathize with educators’ concerns.
“This is a different time,” he said. “I want to welcome everyone back, but this is weird, I’m not going to lie, talking to an empty auditorium.”
“Even in this time of uncertainty,” he said, “I’m looking forward to a great year. I know this team is going to succeed because that is what we do. I know that our teachers are going to make it happen for their students, regardless of the environment we are in.”
“We want our parents to wake up every day and want to send their kids no other place than the Cobb County School District,” he said. “But we are going to have to support each other in this—both the parents and the community.”
Superintendent Ragsdale listed three priorities that will always remain in place to ensure the goal of Student Success in Cobb Schools.
1) Cobb is the best place to teach, lead, and learn.
2) Simplify the foundation of teaching and learning to prepare for innovation.
3) Use data to make decisions.
“There has been no other time in history that we need to come together as ‘One Team’ to make everything move forward in the appropriate manner,” he said plainly.
The Superintendent also referenced two words that must apply to and be practiced by everyone—students and teachers—in this new environment: compassion and accountability.
Utilizing the resources and the administrations of the local schools, he said, will also be key to getting every student everything they need to succeed in a remote learning environment, including digital devices. Students that need food on a regular basis will also be provided for by Cobb’s Food and Nutrition Services, and with ongoing partnerships with MUST Ministries and other charitable organizations around the county.
“We always have and will continue to use data to make decisions,” he said. “The main parameter that went into my final decision to go virtual, was the health and safety of our teachers, staff, and students.”
Both Cobb and Douglas Public Health have been providing data and recommendations to the District ever since March and the potential contact-tracing in a learning environment of 113,000 students made the decision to go full-remote an obvious one.
“There is nobody on the planet, he said passionately, “that wants to get back to face-to-face learning more than me, but we can’t do it until we can ensure a safe environment.”
Superintendent Ragsdale also focused on the importance of Cobb’s staff members coming together as “One Team” to focus on Student Success and ensuring the District’s teaching and learning is “off-the-chart.”
One advantage for Cobb teachers is the Cobb Teaching and Learning System, which serves as a digital learning environment that precisely identifies what students know, supports student learning, engages parents, and empowers teachers with one goal: student success. It is a one-stop-shop for the school community.
“Teachers,” Superintendent Ragsdale said in closing, “you will need to connect with your students in creative ways because they are not going to be in the classroom when we start school. I know you can do it. I know you will do it. You have already been doing it.”
“Compassion and accountability,” he repeated to make sure they were not easily forgotten, “are the two things to take away from this.”
You can learn more about Cobb’s back-to-school plans at www.learningeverywhere.com.