“The money exists to ensure that all students are served,” says Tricia McManus, the brand-new deputy superintendent of Winston-Salem Public Schools in North Carolina. The question, she adds, is whether we as a nation are willing to spend it.

When the pandemic closed schools, McManus said, it shone a light on the needs of all children. “We definitely saw that we need to be more nimble,” she says. Teachers, principals, and district officials immediately responded by getting food, computers, and Wi-Fi to students and are now re-thinking how schools can ensure that all students learn while keeping them safe.

The pandemic, she says, “will propel new thinking. I’m not sure we’ll ever look the same.”
As schools move into the fall, she says, they will have to be creative about their processes and scheduling to ensure that all students learn what they need to. “It’s really about whatever it takes.” And that includes ensuring that students feel comfortable and respected, not punished, when they are in school. “We should not criminalize students,” she says.

In this episode of ExtraOrdinary Districts in Extraordinary Times, Tricia McManus, who just left Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida after many years of leading the effort to improve the principal corps, talks about what it takes for a large district to address equity and excellence in a pandemic.