Ask Ernie: School Reopening Town Hall

At the “Ask Ernie” zoom town hall held by the American Federation of School Administrators (AFSA) on August 13th, members from locals across the country got important information going into this school year, from how to enforce mask mandates, to what the hold up in Congress on passing legisltation will mean for them.

The meeting on Zoom opened up with the question heard from around the country, “What do we do?”

Ernest Logan, president of the AFSA, started with the basics, “Safety is our number one priority and duty as educators.”  Safety, he clarified, for both the children and staff at school. Logan also went on to point out that beyond physical safety, mental health will also need to be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as mental health resources move further out of reach for many students.

Donis Coronel, executive director of Administrators Association San Diego Schools (AFSA Local 134), spoke from a local member perspective on how San Diego has approached the upcoming school year. Coronel talked about how San Diego and Los Angeles worked in harmony as the two largest school districts in the state, to make joint decisions. Coronel also emphasized the importance of making decisions based on medical professionals and experts on health science, rather than focusing on politics.

Leonard Pugliese, executive vice president of AFSA, offered AFSA resources to help administrators maintain legal protection as they build plans for future in-person or hybrid learning.

Jon Bernstein, AFSA's legislative director and president of the Bernstein Strategy Group, stepped in to keep members informed on what federal level response was looking like- and, more importantly- what it means to funding for their schools. “Money, we’re hearing, is still stuck from the CARES act at the state level which means most of it hasn’t reached school districts yet,” Bernstein said

Members asked questions throughout prompting discussions such as how to enforce new rules like masking mandates or social distancing requirements. Troy LaRaviere, president of AFSA Local 2, laid out a plan for how to handle it. “We must first communicate the rules at all levels, often, and from everyone,” LaRavieve said.

LaRaviere pointed out students are scientists when they hear the new rules will hypothesize how real they are or how far they go, “Like the good scientists they are they test their hypothesis that you don’t really mean it.” The students will push on the rules to see if they are real or will crumble when touched, and so there needs to be a response when the behavior is not met.

The first “Ask Ernie” wrapped up with a call to action from Logan, “When we send emails out with a button to click for action, click that button so we can get things done.”