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Please join me, fellow Prescottonians in saluting the class of 2020 as they wrap up undoubtedly one of the most different and challenging school years in our Prescott Unified School District’s 150 years of history.  We can all be very proud of our seniors who have had to show great resilience and flexibility for an ending that no one predicted.

Although the final quarter was swept from underneath their feet, our kids, like many across the country showed great strength.  They never shied away from the gravity of the pandemic and all of the uncertainty it has brought along with it.  Instead, they have found ways to celebrate their four year high school career, or even their 12-13 years together in PUSD.

As adults and educators, we have been telling these students for years that we are preparing them for jobs that do not yet exist.  Now, more than ever, we move forward not knowing what our world will look like next month, let alone in the next five years.  I am honored to know these kids as problem solvers who take their duties very seriously.  (Years ago, we would have class meetings to get seniors to take responsibilities more seriously as they approached the end of high school.  These days, we have meetings to help with strategies for seniors that take their college and career futures seriously to the point of anxiety.)  Prescottonians, let me tell you that the future is bright with the class of 2020, and “Kids these days”.

The senior class, led by Student Council members and then communicated through surveys (twice to make sure) chose to wait until August 8, holding out hope that our ceremony could possibly be closer to the normal tradition, where thousands show up to Prescott High’s Bill Shepard Field to celebrate together as the sun sets over Thumb Butte.  The originally planned graduation date of May 22 has been met with a video tribute to the class as we wait with hope for an actual ceremony.  Though that ceremony cannot be guaranteed to be “normal” or without social distancing parameters, PHS seniors preferred it to a June celebration with possibly less tradition.  Either way, we will give the class of 2020 every honor we can.  Here’s hoping to see you all on August 8.

Graduation is certainly the biggest concern of our students, staff, families and community members.  Next up is what will the next school year look like for the rest of the nearly 4,000 PUSD students from preschool to high school.  While that future is not known by anyone, in PUSD, we have been able to change our current systems to prepare for school to focus on transitioning into whatever we are up against in August.  (Keep in mind, PUSD and schools across the country went from “regular” school to distance learning in essentially a few days.)

One example of such a “system” is PUSD’s Balanced Leadership Goal Planning, which takes place every year, the week after school gets out.  Leaders from across the district and every school, look at multiple forms of data to rewrite school and district goals for the coming school year.  This year, we will focus on learning targets that are lacking due to the pandemic, as well as goal setting for different scenarios that we might face in August.  Another system is summer school, which will have a whole different focus on bridging gaps from the school closures.  PUSD also has summer workshops for teachers to evolve curriculum, as well as days of pre-service where teachers come in to prepare for the coming year.  These will be focused on transitioning kids and staff academically and emotionally, as we move forward together.

I am extremely grateful to live in Prescott, Arizona, where education is a primary focus.  Together as a community, we will continue to succeed in any situation, because we strongly support our kids; our future.

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