President's Corner

Courage, Compassion and Self-Care
By DEBORAH L. KERR/School Administrator, June 2020

IN TIMES OF UNCERTAINTY, we must rise to meet our biggest leadership challenges — and this is that time.

The worldwide pandemic has affected all of us, from rural America to urban centers. This unprecedented journey is one that none of us ever expected or were quite ready to deal with. This time of uncertainty, grief and anxiety calls for true leaders to rise, to lead with courage, compassion and self-care.

»Courage. On March 13, I prepared a message to my district’s families and staff — a message I’d never before had to craft. We were closing Brown Deer schools for the next four weeks. I was overwhelmed with grief and sadness.

The health of our students, staff, families, community members and the most vulnerable is of the utmost importance, and closing our schools was something we could do to support efforts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This difficult decision was made in collaboration with Quadrant D, a team of remarkable superintendents in southeastern Wisconsin that makes decisions related to snow or inclement weather days. We typically meet via conference call at 4 a.m. However, these conversations were anything but typical.

We were ahead of our state and national leaders in deciding to close our schools, which created some uncertainty for us all. We needed to make plans to feed the children, to support families with child care, to take care of our employees and to provide remote learning opportunities. Thirteen courageous school leaders took the lead to cancel schools in their respective districts. I am so proud of Quadrant D.

»Compassion. As leaders, we can be a force for the good. During these times of isolation, we must stay connected and take care of one another through kindness, by showing appreciation and love for our families and school communities. We need to let the community know that we are here for them.

Amidst this isolation, encourage your team to reach out to each other, to share movies they’ve watched or books they are reading. I just finished watching the movie “Yesterday,” a sweet romantic comedy about a struggling British musician who believes he’s the only person who remembers the Beatles! I needed this story, inspired by music, to warm my soul.

We cannot change the negative news of the pandemic, but we can be the voice of compassion that inspires hope for tomorrow. This is leadership.

»Self-Care. Self-care, a vital aspect of our leadership role, is nourishment for the soul. Self-care must be a priority to sustain us through the ever-changing demands on our time. The pandemic has caused overwhelming stress for school leaders. This is the time to rise up and lead others in our charge. When we become intentional and take care of ourselves, we nourish our souls as leaders. We give to ourselves to give back to others. Self-care is a vital aspect of leadership.

I am so honored to have served you in my role as president in 2019-20. You have forever influenced my leadership. Let us continue to be intentional and steadfast in our leadership of equity. Our children and school communities now more than ever need your gifts and your leadership. May you all inspire, innovate and lead greatly. Until we come together again.

DEBORAH KERR is AASA president in 2019-20. Twitter: @DrDLKerr