What most worries 2022 Superintendent of the Year

Curtis Cain, 48, who has since 2013 been in cost of the 17,300-university student faculty district in Wentzville, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, was supplied the nationwide honor last month in Nashville at the annual education and learning convention of AASA, College Superintendents Affiliation.

Cain, who is taking on a new obstacle this summer time as superintendent of the Rockwood College District in the St. Louis suburbs, which has much more than 20,000 students, was credited with capably guiding Wentzville as it became the speediest rising district in the point out. Just one key initiative through the pandemic was the creation of an on the web psychological health and fitness hub for pupils.

When accepting his award, Cain mentioned that 2022 has been more difficult than the uncertain times when the pandemic very first took hold in 2020 and supply traces made it really hard to come across essential staples. “It’s been like soccer without shin guards,” he reported. ” … I’m not sure how 2022 is even worse than March of 2020, when we did not know where by we’re likely to come across rest room paper, but in some way it is worse. But in some way the function is even extra essential.”

I asked him what he meant by that statement, and Cain explained that at the get started of the pandemic, the largest problem in assembly the requires of pupils was not realizing what was going to materialize and getting to adjust procedures repeatedly as the pandemic advanced.

These days, he explained, there are “many other variables layered on top of individuals previously difficulties.” Those people consist of new limits in Republican-led states on how historical past, race and gender are mentioned in lecture rooms, and, he claimed, large philosophical thoughts about the worth of public schooling.

“I have all the self-assurance in the globe that we will get even though this,” Cain said, but he conceded it will anything but simple. “We’ve observed obstacle just before,” he claimed, “but I really do not know if we’ve noticed all of this in advance of.”

Through the pandemic, Cain found himself navigating in a largely conservative local community. In January, for example, the Wentzville college board refused to undertake his suggestion that masks be essential in universities that had a 3 p.c coronavirus positivity rate.

Later in January, the very same panel voted to clear away “The Bluest Eye” by Nobel Prize-profitable writer Toni Morrison from large college libraries due to the fact of its graphic descriptions of intercourse, rape, incest and violence — but the college board reversed that conclusion in February following a lawsuit was filed by students.

Edgar Nelson, principal of Liberty High University in the district, described Cain’s navigation of these difficulties to AASA this way: “We are a pretty conservative neighborhood. Ideal on the heels of covid, we’ve been working with [critical race theory]. Dr. Cain is actually so unflappable even when individuals are screaming and yelling.”

Asked what he sees as the major obstacle going through general public schooling, Cain explained it is the pipeline of talent to workers public educational institutions. Lecturers. Principals. Superintendents. Aides. Bus motorists. Etc.

“Funding will constantly be a problem we have to function our way as a result of,” he reported. “It’s an ever-current concern that leadership demands to be regarded as. But the major issue that is rising is the pipeline — and I never just suggest this about the superintendency.”

Personnel shortages have hobbled the functions of numerous faculties this school calendar year. In some destinations instructors are so scarce that parents and other non-educators have been asked to fill in. Principals are undertaking custodial chores, and bus service has been seriously reduce mainly because of a lack of drivers. In 1 Connecticut school district, disrupted bus services compelled faculties to shut for two days.

Quite a few school districts have been making an attempt to come across novel methods to personnel empty positions. Methods have incorporated bringing again retired educators and paying out out hundreds of pounds in bonuses or considerable shell out hikes as incentives for recruitment and retention. Some are using the services of college students in teacher-planning programs in advance of they graduate — and even college students have been requested to help tutor their peers.

“You name the place in the university district, and people are gravely involved about the long term of the pipeline,” Cain mentioned. “Some of the response that educators have seen does not enable the obstacle we are going through. It is staring us in the encounter, and I can see it gaining momentum. I really do not see a very clear and clean up path of how to deal with and abate the pipeline issue in entrance of us inside of the subsequent five or 10 several years. I really do not see it from the chair right now.”

The results in of the shortages are various. Tens of millions of people today give up their employment in the course of the pandemic, but superintendents say their troubles are primarily based in more than that. Non-public companies can pay much more than they do — even with the federal pandemic relief funding that Congress passed above the past number of several years — and issues to the way teachers do their employment are generating that situation significantly less appealing than ever.

“I know we’re tired,” he informed other state superintendents through his convention speech. “I know there are problems that are in entrance of us … But public education is really worth the battle.”