Civil Discourse Webinar: Rebuilding and Reimagining K-12 Education After Natural Disaster
Leaders in every school district face the daunting task of bridging divides in the pursuit of solutions for diverse student populations. But for some, that endeavor has been compounded by the staggering disruption of natural disaster.
In The Line’s first civil discourse webinar, we dig into the complicated situations in Puerto Rico and Louisiana exacerbated by devastating hurricanes. I had the privilege of moderating the conversation between Dr. Julia Keleher, Secretary of Education for Puerto Rico, and Mr. Paul Pastorek, consultant to Puerto Rico Department of Education and former Superintendent of Education for Louisiana. They let us in on their experience of rebuilding after disaster–and the surprising truth that out of some of the toughest situations, the greatest opportunities emerge.
The webinar, now available on-demand, brings to light some key takeaways for educator leaders facing major, especially unexpected, changes:
- Strategies to plan for positive change in systems characterized by “lack of equity and equal access to opportunities to learn,” even in the face of disaster
- Finding and developing high-quality human capital to create a system that values the whole human in both students and teachers, especially following traumatic events
- The place of local autonomy and school choice in providing equal access to education
- The power of community in times of change and difficulty, and lessons learned in facilitating communication with local communities and local leaders
But perhaps most exciting is the chance to hear about the great good that has come from these difficult situations, including the chance to rebuild physical buildings, the opportunity to restructure classroom learning and the renewal of collaboration within communities.
As Secretary Keleher puts it, “The ability to come together in a time of crisis was not something that emerged post-storm, it was something that was simply showcased…. If we could create a public education system where schools and the opportunities for professional development and the resources were available—simply gave communities more resource and more reach and more opportunity to do the wonderful things that they inherently do—I think the benefits and the potential rewards from this effort are really incalculable.”
Paul Pastorek additionally emphasizes the importance of involving the community. “The real hard part of trying to make transformational change for your community is getting the community to buy into it. Many communities struggle with transformational change, and it was no different in New Orleans. It’s also very hard because those people have been disappointed many, many times in the past… There’s no specific recipe to try to transform a district… You have to be flexible, as I learned. You have to have an idea of what your plan is, and you have to be willing to bend and modify, because there are so many levels of stakeholders.”
The full webinar is available through The Line. Listen in for the invaluable experiences of Julia Keheler and Paul Pastorek as they discuss rebuilding education systems after devastating natural disaster and combating the breakdown of civil discourse about this and other key issues.