Dr. Jamison's Weekly Message
July 1, 2021
Welcoming Our New Superintendent
Dear Maplewood Richmond Heights Community,
I am overjoyed and privileged to have the opportunity to serve as your superintendent of schools. In order for us to begin our work together it is important to begin to know one another as people and not just by our titles or roles.
A little about me: I am a first-generation college graduate with three children (two sons and a daughter). All of my successes in life, and my strong belief in the moral obligation to serve others, can be attributed to the relationships I have had with my teachers. They believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. In addition, I have had other significant adults in my personal and professional life who served as mentors and cheerleaders. In all of my roles -- parent, family member, congregation member, assistant superintendent, etc. -- I have always focused on developing strong relationships and being of service to others. As we begin to acquaint ourselves through a variety of meetings which will take place before the school year starts, I look forward to becoming personally connected and exchanging ideas about how we can continue to improve the District to better serve our school community.
During my time as an educator, I have found that public education can provide opportunities to meet students on an individual basis where they are and propel them toward their passions. I believe that as an educator it is my moral imperative to help our children prepare and develop post-secondary plans to ready them for whatever path they choose into adulthood. It is my belief that collaboratively, we can reimagine the future of Maplewood Richmond Heights schools using our current cornerstones to underpin our work. All of my experiences have helped me realize the power of collaboration and the value of listening as a means to better understand the perspective of all stakeholders in any decisions we make.
Finally, please know that I believe it is critical to connect with and serve our school community. I look forward to meeting with each of you in the coming months. I feel honored to join the Maplewood Richmond Heights Board of Education, those selfless leaders who care so deeply about our students, staff and community... as do I.
Until we meet, please stay safe and well.
Dr. Bonita E. Jamison
Superintendent of Schools
June 9, 2021
I’ve been thinking about transitions these past few weeks. My youngest child got married last weekend. It was a wonderful, milestone celebration with family and friends in a beautiful outdoor setting. I could not have asked for a more perfect day. The weather was beautiful; the flowers, food and music were exactly as hoped. The bride and groom were overjoyed by such a lovely, triumphant day. Looking at the photos, you wouldn’t know that we had to reschedule the event three times due to COVID. Each postponement was a disappointment, a small heartbreaking reminder of uncertainty within the pandemic. It was not safe to host a wedding last May. So, we tearfully rescheduled for fall. However, when fall arrived COVID rates were on the rise and it was not safe for vulnerable family members to attend a gathering. We held our breath and rescheduled for spring. We planned a smaller event with some additional COVID-conscious seating adjustments. Family members got vaccinated well ahead of the event. All the waiting and the changes were worth it. My daughter had the wedding of her dreams in a safe family setting.
As I write this final message as Acting Superintendent, I am also reflecting on the transitions our school community has endured this school year. Our teachers, students and families learned entirely new ways of schooling through virtual learning. The first half of the school year was challenging amid Tier 3 virtual learning. By mid-year, we knew more about the virus and the mitigation measures which keep individuals safe in a school environment. So we transitioned to a Tier 2 hybrid environment. For some this was a welcome change, as it afforded in-person learning and a much needed connection with the school environment. For others, the half-day transition was challenging. In April, based on new CDC guidance, we transitioned once again to full in-person learning in a Tier 1 environment. Another milestone event in an incredibly difficult year.
Each transition brought uncertainty and discomfort. But again, the changes and the waiting were worthwhile. As I walked throughout the District this week, I saw smiling faces at the 6th grade picnic. I sat with 1st graders who happily read me their short stories. I talked with middle schoolers about their on-campus and off-campus expeditions. I spent an hour combing through the virtual museum galleries, including the work of our virtual academy students. I watched the seniors engage in a serious game of kickball at their BBQ outing. There were considerable worries, fears, disappointments and tears to get to this week. There were sacrifices and frustrations. Many events don’t look the way they would pre-COVID. But they are joyful. Our students have grown and learned. I am waiting anxiously for graduation to celebrate the pinnacle of student success.
On July 1st, Dr. Bonita Jamison will take her place as the next MRH superintendent and I will happily resume my role as assistant superintendent. I know she is a wonderful addition to the MRH community. The transition begins a new chapter in the ongoing MRH story. While I don’t know what the future holds, I am confident it is bright. This year has demonstrated to us that there may be some uncertainty, there may be some disappointments, there may be some obstacles as we work to provide world-class public education. Plans may shift and change, but together we can do hard things. The MRH community is strong and supportive. MRH parents and guardians do whatever it takes to support their learners. MRH teachers and staff go the extra mile for students. MRH students are self-directed learners who engage in their education. While transitions are inevitable, the community is committed and stable.
It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve the MRH community. Thank you for your partnership throughout the many transitions. Have a great summer. I hope to see you in-person soon.
May 7, 2021
Excellence in Teaching Doesn't Happen by Accident
I may be biased, but I think MRH really does have the best teachers. So much passion, so much dedication, so much care for students. I am humbled each day as I watch their interactions with students. This week, I had first-graders show me their data collection and graphing work. One student asked me if I would complete a survey he created. He got out his clipboard and handled the interview like a professional. That doesn’t happen by accident.
A fourth-grade student spent time explaining the business she hoped to start and shared her business model. She was going to launch a store with two distinct brands: a clothing store on one side and a toy store where kids make their own “slime” on the other. The student explained that moms need to have time to themselves while shopping. So, in her store, kids could be supervised and have fun while mom gets a break. She had a business plan and a hiring plan, and had thought through what an ideal employee would look like. That doesn’t happen by accident.
I watched the middle school team arrive back at school muddy and exhausted after a three day expedition on the Mississippi River. Students had canoed the “Mighty Miss” while taking water samples, learning history of the region, writing in journals and exploring sustainability issues. That doesn’t happen by accident.
I also heard about high school students who have created their own documentary about the pandemic. It is a look at how COVID has influenced students at our local level. They have worked with experts and will be able to screen their documentary in the coming week. That doesn’t happen by accident.
As the official “Teacher Appreciation Week” draws to a close, I want to acknowledge our wonderful team of educators. Deep learning does not happen by chance. It happens through hard work, love of children and a deep understanding of students’ need to know and do. By knowing their students well, teachers are able to take student interest and academic goals and create incredible experiences for kids. Please join me in celebrating our teachers for a job well done in an incredibly challenging year.
April 19, 2021
Shared sense of purpose
This would not have been possible without the support of you, the families who entrust us with the wellbeing of your children. I know your lives were upended. You adjusted work hours to accommodate at-home instruction. You juggled conflicting schedules in households with multiple learners. You shouldered a greater load during homework periods. This level of dedication makes me increasingly proud of our community and strengthens my resolve.
While the revised CDC guidance for schools allows us to implement changes that bring more students on campus, our collective work is not over. I understand the trepidation that some people feel about being vaccinated against COVID-19; it’s natural. With multiple vaccines now widely available, our focus at MRH shifts to educating the community about the “where, when and why” of getting the shot. Recently, we distributed two important video messages to our staff. One video features a retired preschool teacher explaining why she got the vaccine. The other video carries a similar message by a member of the St. Louis County Council. I’m including them here because each statement resonates powerfully. Additionally, we are committed to relaying information to the MRH community about how to register for vaccine shots, now that all Missouri residents 16 and older are eligible for them.
Of course, testing has also been a pillar of the response to COVID-19 for the past year. The increasing number of testing resources and available labs has made it possible to host testing events throughout the state to learn more about the prevalence of COVID-19 community transmission (a key factor in MRH’s decision-making process). We fully support this effort and urge you to use this link to locate a testing site near you. Testing is free, and no pre-registration or appointment is needed.
MRH has already held vaccine clinics for all staff members. The turnout was impressive. I feel a great sense of relief knowing that the majority of staff members are vaccinated. In coming weeks, we will continue to share opportunities for the community to be vaccinated. MRH is committed to doing all we can to assist the community in its vaccination efforts. Thank you for your ongoing diligence in following protocols to keep our community safe!