Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Bryan Johnson told a virtual panel Wednesday he was hopeful for the upcoming school year and shared plans for the year.
Johnson told educators participating in the panel that learning loss — or what panel attendees called unfinished learning as a result of the pandemic — might not be as severe as some people might anticipate because of the work done by teachers and staff members locally and statewide to fill in learning gaps.
He joined half a dozen teachers, principals and superintendents for the "Making Schools Work" panel as part of the Southern Regional Education Board's annual conference. During the session, Johnson and attendees answered questions from the board's president, Stephen Pruitt, who moderated the session, focusing on districts' approaches to the pandemic last spring and what has changed since.
When asked to look back on priorities last spring, Johnson said access to technology was one critical aspect the district addressed when the pandemic began in March.
He said the district's one-to-one device access for grades 6-12 expanded to include grades 3-5, and he talked about HCS EdConnect, the district's program in partnership with EPB, which provides free high-speed internet access to low-income students and their families in Hamilton County.
Johnson also highlighted the district's use of community input from surveys and its student advisory council in decision-making for the 2020-21 school year.
"I think everybody is about Zoomed out, but the beauty of Zoom and the beauty of these platforms is, it's really caused us to think differently about how we engage," Johnson told panel participants. "All of our community meetings, we still held them, we held them virtually and got great participation from those."
The two parting thoughts he had for the upcoming year were to focus on the details when addressing student achievement and to "capture the bright spots" (quoted from the book "Switch") and focus on what district strategies are working rather than which ones are not.
Contact Anika Chaturvedi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592.