By Jill A. Baker, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools
The first day of school this week began quietly and calmly for me, just before sunup in front of Los Cerritos Elementary School. Nobody had arrived yet, but the day held great possibilities.
Soon I was talking to KABC-7 reporter Rachel Brown for the first of several news media interviews at various schools. By 6:45 a.m., TV news was telling the world about the excitement of the day, describing the preparation and great care that we’ve taken to reopen schools as safely as possible.
The quiet and calm gave way to a stirring performance by the marching band and cheerleaders with pom-poms greeting students and staff at Jordan High School. The sense of genuine community spirit and celebration at school was immediate. The presence of students breathed life and energy into the school. This feeling would be repeated many times during the course of the day. Time after time, I was reminded how much our schools mean to our students, parents and the community.
At other schools, I proudly witnessed teachers practicing their craft with finesse and with heart, centering relationships and creating a foundation for the learning that is sure to come. Students and staff exchanged “virtual hugs” and elbow bumps. Kindergartners tentatively tapped their feet to the sound of their teacher’s singing and clapping, beginning their journey into our school system.
At Roosevelt Elementary School, we were privileged to host a visit by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who praised the health and safety measures being implemented in our schools. Many news media outlets attended the event and conveyed the significance of this day to wide audiences. Thank you to Superintendent Thurmond and the other event speakers including Mayor Robert Garcia, Los Angeles County Superintendent Debra Duardo and LBUSD President Juan Benitez for helping to bring well-deserved attention to the story of our resilient schools and communities.
By starting LBUSD’s 136th school year in-person this week, we’ve taken a huge step toward closing the gap between how things are, and how they should be. We will work hard to keep the momentum going, finding inspiration in people like Sherrika Woods, who watched her son, Elon Simmons, enter Jordan High for the first time as a freshman. Like all of us, Sherrika was a little apprehensive about the first day of school. But she also sensed possibility for students.
“The pandemic did throw a damper on things,” she told lbpost.com, “but I think they need this to build their next journey.”
Thank you to everyone in our school communities who makes that “next journey” possible. Thank you for making us #proudtobelbusd.