After six years of leading the Menlo Park City School District in the Silicon Valley of California, it’s time to say goodbye to a District I have been honored to serve. After six years of blogging it’s also time to sunset the SupsOn Blog. For those who have found value in the musings I share each month, I thank you for taking the time to read and consider my thoughts on education, parenting, and community over these years. We’ve certainly covered quite the variety of topics and lived through interesting times.
If you are disappointed to miss out on this voice, never fear; I’m leaving my job, but not the joy of writing. I hope to start up a new blog in 2023 on similar topics but from a slightly different perspective. This blog site will remain accessible through June 2023 and if you “subscribe” to it by clicking HERE, you are sure to be included on the recipients of my new blog when it is up and running.
As I have prepared to leave my post, many folks have asked what advice I would share with those who are tasked with stewarding our schools into the future. I have responded with this: Public education is being tested in ways it has never been tested before. Some are obvious, but the most challenging of the pressures are subtle. Good schools are the hallmark of good communities. We must—all of us—continue to support our public schools regardless of whether or not we have children in them.
When we fail to elevate education professions, recruit our best and brightest, support their continuous development, and compensate them with the professional wages they need and deserve, we quite literally are writing the epitaph for an institution that remains the backbone of our democracy.
Why is this the advice I offer as I leave above all the other options? Like the headline on an August 15, 2022 article highlighted, “The Teacher Shortage is Bad. Really Bad.” There’s nothing particularly remarkable about this one article; it’s just that it is only one of thousands that have been printed and posted over the last twelve months. Unfortunately, I think we’re only seeing the tip of this iceberg. The political and financial strains on the system are as heavy as they have ever been. Our elected leaders and local communities are not making choices that make education look any more attractive to those who are graduating from college or considering shifts in their careers.
Those schools and communities that prioritize the recruitment, support, compensation, and development of high-quality teachers and staff will not only survive the pressures, but thrive in the world ahead. What school looks like in the future may change--and I would argue, must change--and be different for different types of kids and communities. However, the necessity of good public schools and the important role they serve in the furtherance of our democratic society can not be overstated.
I am so grateful for the memories and the trust and confidence of the community I have served. I look forward to my personal adventure ahead, which will include consulting youth-serving organizations (including schools) and a healthy dose of advocacy for strengthening one of our most sacred institutions--public education.
It’s not goodbye; it’s "until next time…"
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Erik Burmeister is the Superintendent of Menlo Park City School District in the heart of Silicon Valley.