After delivering 10,000 devices, thousands of Wi-Fi hot spots, and 300,000 meals per week, Mobile County Public Schools created a hybrid system of instructional packets, online instruction, and television instruction to provide children and families choices in how continue their education.

Many systems around Mobile “just gave worksheets or busy work,” Superintendent Chresal Threadgill says, and he has faced backlash for expecting students to do more than the minimum. But he has faced down the criticism. “We have students who are already two and three years behind,” says Threadgill. “I could not afford for our students to stay out for five months without being engaged.”

In this episode of ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times, Threadgill, Assistant Superintendent of Academics Lakesha Brackins, and George Hall Elementary School Principal Melissa Mitchell, talk about the challenges of operating in the time of coronavirus — including what’s involved in holding in-person graduation ceremonies.

Communicating with 54,000 students, their families, and 6,000 teachers and staff members was the biggest challenge, Threadgill says. To communicate clearly the district set up a website that provides information and textbooks and a hotline that provides technical assistance and homework help.

“When there’s something in the way, you have to figure out how to remove that obstacle,” Threadgill says. “That’s just leadership.”
Threadgill and Brackins are optimistic that the experience of closing school buildings will have the effect of bringing the district together and forcing improvement.

“We completely transformed education in Mobile County,” says Brackins. “This is going to make our district better.”
To read about George Hall Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama, see Schools that Succeed (Harvard Education Press, 2017).