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A Year Like No Other

By Jill A. Baker, Ed. D.
Superintendent of Schools

In the 136-year history of the Long Beach Unified School District, the 2020-21 school year will be remembered as one of the most tumultuous and extraordinary. We entered the fall semester with all campuses closed due to the global coronavirus pandemic. To keep learning alive, we rapidly deployed a new Learning Management System called Canvas, along with related professional development for thousands of teachers, allowing instruction to continue in the virtual setting. Conditions were far from ideal, yet students, parents and teachers persevered in the distance learning environment for more than a year, supported by non-teaching staff who provided social emotional support, millions of meals to go, and tens of thousands of computer tablets and other technology to struggling families. Schools had closed their campuses back in March of 2020. Reopening for in-person learning gradually began a year later, in March of 2021. I was honored and humbled to become superintendent about five months into our school closures, on Aug. 1, 2020.

Prior to the pandemic, this school district had seen significant growth in student performance based on key indicators such as high school readiness, graduation rates and completion rates for A-G college entrance requirements, including for all racial/ethnic groups. Graduation rates here surpassed those of the state and Los Angeles County, despite the fact that 63 percent of our students come from socioeconomically disadvantaged households. During the school closures, we strove to maintain our focus on our strategic goals and our hard-fought progress. We sustained relatively high levels of student attendance. Learning continued. Yet the pandemic also magnified societal inequities, disproportionately affecting already disadvantaged populations, including people of color. Our communities and our school system also were impacted by our nation’s 2020 reckoning with long-simmering, incendiary issues of racism and social justice. Amid the contagion and the strife, we pressed forward with renewed resolve to engage our diverse communities in necessary conversations about equity and systemic racism, laying the groundwork for a number of equity and excellence initiatives – including hiring efforts – that will continue in the months and years ahead. The pandemic and our societal reckoning created a crucible that helped us to forge more meaningful and authentic relationships with many of our stakeholders.

Our school district is now well positioned to begin a new era of progress for every student in our care. To everyone who has supported our schools during this immensely challenging time, I extend my deepest gratitude, and I invite you to continue on our collective journey together with great hope for our students.

CLASS OF 2021 – Superintendent Baker hands out diplomas during the recent California Academy of Mathematics and Science commencement ceremony.