This year has been draining for pretty much everyone connected to schools: children stuck in Zoom classes, teachers worried about their health and their students, parents juggling their jobs while managing children learning from home. And for the district leaders responsible for managing it all, the pandemic has been a uniquely exhausting experience. Now some of them have decided to call it quits.
Austin Beutner, the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second largest, announced last week that he would leave his post at the end of June, becoming one of the most prominent superintendents to retire or resign this year.
Los Angeles struggled to reopen schools, facing resistance from teachers as well as some parents, and students are currently able to attend only part time. Beutner told our colleague Shawn Hubler that his tenure, during which he faced first a teachers’ strike and then the coronavirus, had been taxing.
“It’s been a long three years,” he said.
Dan Domenech, the executive director of the School Superintendents Association, said that the pandemic was causing an unusual amount of turnover in superintendent positions, as people retire, resign or, in some cases, have been fired after clashes with school board members over reopening schools.
“It’s been incredibly difficult for superintendents,” Domenech said. “They’re in communities where half the parents want the schools open, half the parents want the schools shut. Whatever you decide, it’s a no-win situation, because you’re going to have people mad at you.”
He said that some superintendents had been subject to threats over their pandemic-related decisions.
For Tina H. McCoy, the superintendent of schools in Raymond, N.H., part of what wore her down was the stress of knowing that at any moment — including in the evening or on the weekend — she might get a call about a coronavirus case and have to start a new round of contact tracing and quarantining. There was a shortage of substitutes, and she worried constantly about having enough adults in schools to keep them open.
“It’s tiring, because it’s 24-7,” she said.
McCoy had originally planned to retire in 2023, when she would be 60. But she decided this spring to move her plans up by two years. She will now leave at the end of June.
“I need a break that a vacation cannot give,” she said.
She said she was honest with the school board about her reasons for leaving.
“I said, this year has chipped away at my inspiration,” she explained. “And I said, that might be OK if I had a different type of job, but for the superintendency, that’s not OK.”
A private school vs. vaccines
Most schools across the country have tried to help teachers and employees get a coronavirus vaccine, often advocating that they be moved to the front of the line. But one private school in Miami made a big splash this week when our colleague Patricia Mazzei reported that it’s doing the opposite.
A founder of Centner Academy in the fashionable Design District of Miami told teachers in a letter last week that she had decided, “with a very heavy heart,” that vaccinated teachers would have to stay away from students.
As a reminder, vaccines are safe and effective. The more U.S. residents are vaccinated, the faster life can safely and responsibly return to normal.
By early April, about 80 percent of U.S. teachers had gotten at least one dose of a vaccine, the C.D.C. said. The vaccination campaign has opened more classrooms and brought education back to something close to normal for millions of U.S. students.
But this policy, in this one school, is a worrying example of how misinformation threatens the nation’s effort to vaccinate enough Americans to get the coronavirus under control.
The founder, Leila Centner, claimed in the letter that there have been reports of vaccinated people negatively impacting unvaccinated people.
The latest on how the pandemic is reshaping education.
“Even among our own population, we have at least three women with menstrual cycles impacted after having spent time with a vaccinated person,” she wrote, repeating a false claim that vaccinated people can somehow pass the vaccine to others and thereby affect their reproductive systems. (They can do neither.)
In her letter, Centner told teachers to inform the school if they are vaccinated, “as we cannot allow recently vaccinated people to be near our students until more information is known.” She also effectively made teachers’ employment next fall contingent on not getting the vaccine.
Here is an F.A.Q. from The Times on vaccines. All adults over 16 are eligible to get shots, which are free and available at many pharmacies and pop-up vaccination sites.
Around the country
President Biden will speak to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday evening about his $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which includes financing for universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, a federal paid leave program, efforts to make child care more affordable, free community college for all and aid for students at colleges that historically serve nonwhite communities.
Today’s issue of The Morning newsletter analyzes Biden’s plan.
Biden’s plan for free community college faces a big challenge: Some states charge much more in tuition than others.
The University of Missouri welcomed about 1,500 students who graduated in the class of 2020 for a belated in-person ceremony this past weekend. Many colleges around the country have yet to nail down their plans for the class of 2021, but Georgetown University plans to host its ceremony in Nationals Park, the baseball stadium.
Students at Howard University are protesting plans to scrap the classics department, the only such department at a historically Black university.
Wayne State University will pay students $10 if they prove they’ve been vaccinated by May 7.
West Virginia University will extend its test-optional policy through spring 2023, waiving the requirement for applicants to submit SAT scores. “We have found that G.P.A. is often a better predictor of college success and reflects a student’s overall academic performance,” the school’s assistant vice president of enrollment management said.
The faculty union at the Oregon Institute of Tech is on strike, in what The Herald and News said is the first faculty-wide strike in the state’s higher education history.
A good read from The Washington Post: Don’t sweat it if you didn’t get into your top college. Look at the numbers — analyzed in this article — to see that there’s not a lot of difference between many universities.
Parents in Carmel, Ind., likened the recent hire of a diversity, equity and inclusion officer to Nazi propaganda. In Louisiana, controversy swirls about a possible proposal to ban schools from teaching “divisive concepts” like critical race theory. And the Idaho Senate approved legislation that aims to prevent schools from “indoctrinating students” with critical race theory.
Maryland’s public school systems must be open five days a week for in-person instruction next fall, state officials said.
A faulty ventilation system may have caused a coronavirus outbreak at a Pennsylvania elementary school.
A third-grade student in Cape Coral, Fla., was kicked out of class for dyeing his hair bright red. His mother shaved his head so he could return to the classroom, and will keep him home for a week until the color fades.
Help teens with eating disorders
“As a psychologist who cares for adolescents, I am well aware of the prevalence of eating disorders among teenagers,” Dr. Lisa Damour writes in The Times. “Even still, I am stunned by how much worse the situation has become in the pandemic.”
An inpatient unit in San Francisco has “exploded,” she writes. Providers have six-month wait lists. Hotlines are jammed. Demand for treatment way outstrips supply.
That might be because adolescents lost familiar rhythms and structures of the school day this year. Disordered or controlled eating might be an outlet for their energy and stress. Social media could play a role. So could the heightened food insecurity many households are experiencing amid economic declines.
If you love or care for a teenager who may have an eating disorder, Dr. Damour’s article could be useful. But in general, look for sudden weight drops, secretive eating or disappearing food. And if you think there’s something wrong, act early and model healthy eating.