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Reaching Up and Reaching Out

Spark from ARC

April 2020

Reaching Up and Reaching Out

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” – Jimmy Dean

The past six weeks have been unprecedented. Circumstances changed in a heartbeat, and everyone from staff to students to parents were thrown into a whirlwind without warning. Each of you have stepped up in a time of crisis and have done an incredible job under the toughest of circumstances. For that, I want to express my sincere appreciation.

This pandemic requires us to pivot our work - to readjust. We have had to think outside the box and unleash our creativity. All of us - district leaders, building principals, classroom teachers, coaches, support staff, students and parents - have been adapting to the changing conditions. The current crisis has altered the fabric of how we teach, how we support our students, how we learn and how we connect with each other. 

Each of you has found a way to support students and create stability in their lives, even though you have been dealing with the unpredictable nature of COVID-19 and significant changes in your daily routine, such as not being face to face with your students and colleagues. You need to know that your commitment, perseverance, grit and tenacity have not gone unnoticed. Your professionalism, adaptability, flexibility, passion and positive attitude have been extremely critical as we continue to provide our students with a high quality education, nutritious meals and social emotional support. 

This is a time to reach up and reach out. 

Reaching up means that we all need to be growing, expanding our comfort zones and developing new skills. The act of reaching up is to stretch towards something higher. It means finding ways to increase your capacity, competency and capability. For many of us, this includes learning new technology skills such as video conferencing, Google classroom and more. True character is revealed during times of challenge, adversity and crisis. These life-changing moments do provide opportunities to grow. I am proud that our staff have embraced change and demonstrated significant growth during this crisis.  

This is a time to reach up and reach out. 

Reaching out means to initiate contact with another person - to make an effort or sacrifice for someone else. It means going beyond yourself. I know many of you are masters at this. You are already reaching out by sewing masks for those on the front lines, delivering meals to our students, calling particular students that you know need extra support, or texting a coworker or neighbor to let them know you are thinking about them. In times of crisis and isolation, we are reminded that what matters most are our relationships with others.

Allow me to highlight some of the resiliency, strength and accomplishments present in our educational community and the ways in which we are reaching up and reaching out:

  • The East St Louis Senior High School Class of 2020 has earned nearly $11 million in college scholarships.
  • Several of our preschool and early elementary teachers are being filmed to deliver math and reading lessons on PBS that will be broadcast around the region.
  • Avant Elementary has ensured that 97% of their students have received district-issued Chromebooks. Bush Elementary has distributed Chromebooks to 95% of their students.
  • Mason/Clark Middle set up a donation drive to provide needed resources to their families.
  • GEAR UP program staff are checking in by phone on 5 students per day.
  • The FACE Center is launching an online student registration process for current students that will be piloted with Wright and Bush schools.
  • 21st Century After-School Learning Programs re-opened April 20th with virtual programming, including tutoring support, yoga and more.
  • Evening School began April 22nd to support credit recovery efforts for high school students.
  • Eastside Assistant Principal Danielle Huff successfully defended her dissertation on April 13th to earn her doctorate from the University of Illinois.
  • Security Officer Klaudia Carter has physically reported to work at Mason/Clark Middle every day since school closure and is key to ensuring the Grab and Go meal program successfully operates there.
  • Math Instructional Facilitator Kay Rhodes Brown was featured on a live state broadcast on April 23rd to talk about STEM with the Illinois Science and Technology Coalition.
  • For the second year in a row, Flyers basketball coach Mark Chambers has been named by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association as 2019-2020 Coach of the Year for Class 3A, District 19.

On behalf of myself, the Board of Education, Financial Oversight Panel and my Cabinet, thank you for reaching up and reaching out. Our journey is not over, but I am truly inspired by how far we have come in such a short time. Your commitment has ensured that our students continue to receive the support they need at this pivotal time in their lives. Thank you for always empowering excellence.


Arthur R. Culver, Superintendent