Each student will ascend

Welcome from the Superintendent

September 11, 2020

Dear Morris School District Community, 

Like everyone else, I have vivid, indelible memories of September 11, 2001. The entire nation, and especially our local communities in this area, faced an unprecedented loss, compounded by tremendous fear and distress. But I also remember that we faced this adversity together, united with determination and a personal sense of obligation to approach the tragedy as a collective society. In community, we find strength.

Today we are facing another national crisis, one which has impacted all of us and our children in one way or another. I am hopeful that once again a shared sense of purpose within our community will prevail and will make us stronger. Thanks to everyone’s concerted efforts, the Morris School District was able to put the complex pieces together and welcome students back into our schools both physically and virtually this week. I am grateful for your ongoing dialogue, patience, and commitment to protecting the health and safety of our community. I especially want to thank our talented and dedicated faculty and staff for working tirelessly in their preparation; they have demonstrated an admirable openness to exploring new and innovative pathways in order to find solutions to very difficult problems.  

This constructive partnership among staff, families, students, public health officials, and community members that enabled us to reopen our schools must be sustained as we move forward. In fact, it is more important than ever that each one of us does our part to remain vigilant. Coronavirus transmission rates are rising both in Morris County and in New Jersey as the state continues to reopen, and each of us must be fully committed to taking personal responsibility for the behavior necessary to keep COVID suppressed in our local community.  

It is indeed tempting to believe that things are returning to normal. Professional sports teams are playing once again (with incredible mitigation strategies in place), many schools and colleges are returning to in-person instruction, restaurants are allowing indoor dining, and other venues are opening their doors as well. To be sure, this may feel comforting; we all crave normalcy. But it is dangerous to believe that the coronavirus is no longer a serious threat to public health and that we can return to our pre-pandemic behavior. On the contrary, the risks remain formidable, and we all bear the responsibility to slow down, examine our individual behavior, and make the hundreds of routine daily decisions necessary to protect ourselves and others.

Specifically, this means executing all of the following preventive measures, all of the time:  wearing our masks anytime we are in public; maintaining a minimum of six feet physical distance from others (preferably even farther); washing hands properly and frequently, especially upon entering our homes; avoiding congregating with large groups of people, whether indoors or outdoors; and minimizing our time indoors in close quarters with people other than our immediate family whenever possible.  

I cannot emphasize this enough: what we have learned from schools and colleges across the nation and throughout the state is that it will take full and continued compliance from all of us to keep coronavirus from spreading within our district and forcing the closure of our schools once again. If we want to sustain in-person instruction, our district needs the cooperation and partnership of the entire student body and their families. We cannot merely require masks on school property and then neglect to wear them on the weekend; we cannot insist that students remain six feet apart in their classrooms and then allow them to congregate with a group of friends at a party or other potentially unsafe gathering. We must all be willing to defer normalcy until a future time when the external conditions allow. For now, it is critical that we adjust our individual behavior for the sake of our collective well being.

We are thrilled to have students back in our buildings and to see their smiling faces in our Google Meets. I want to make sure we can keep it that way for as long as possible. I urge you to insist on socially responsible behavior for your family and to emphasize to your children the importance of avoiding social contexts that may put them and others at risk of transmission. We should all be proud that we have faced this adversity together as one community. Honest dialogue, pragmatic action, and a shared obligation to take care of each other have yielded impressive progress. Let’s commit to sticking with this formula so that we can move forward safely and confidently.  

Sincerely,

Mackey Pendergrast
Superintendent of Schools

Mr. Pendergrast reviews his math facts with third graders at Alexander Hamilton School.

National Press Club Presentation on Equity & Excellence
First page of the PDF file: NationalPressClubposter

Please click to enlarge.