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Illinois school leaders to talk COVID-19 during June 16 Whiteboard Wednesday

June 7, 2021
Lynn Gibson
Lynn Gibson

Like everyone working to navigate COVID-19, Lynn Gibson has questions.

“Is this our new normal?” asks Gibson, a clinical assistant professor in the Educational Administration program and an interim superintendent of Paw Paw Community Unit School District 271.

Regardless of her active role in Lee County, and her interactions with current professionals in the field who are also students in her classes, Gibson honestly isn’t sure: “I don’t know that we’ve settled into a new normal yet. My crystal ball is about as clear as anyone else’s,” she says.

“What we’ve kind of figured out is that we’re probably not ever going to go back to the way we’ve, quote-unquote, always done business in education. There will be some shifts,” she adds, “and what we hope for is that those are really great shifts – that we pull the silver linings out of what we’ve seen this past year-and-a-half, and that we’re using those silver linings to make us better.”

Gibson and Carolyn Pluim, chair of the Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations, will explore the pandemic and schools as moderators of the NIU College of Education’s June 16 virtual Whiteboard Wednesday.

Virtual classrooms. Google Chrome distribution. Delivery of breakfast and lunch by school bus. Canceled athletics and arts events. New and strict cleaning procedures. Drive-by graduations.

And there are uncertainties.

Does this fall’s return to in-person learning mean everyone? Can schools require, or only encourage, vaccines? Are scheduled eLearning days even necessary anymore? What guidance will the state provide next? Are snow days ancient history?

“Moving Through and Beyond COVID-19: Insights from Illinois School Administrators Presented by a Panel of Huskie Experts” takes place via Zoom from 5 to 6 p.m. Registration is free and open to all.

Panelists are:

  • Marcus Belin, Principal, Huntley High School, Huntley Community School District 158
  • Julie Lam, Ed.S. ’18, Assistant Principal, Oswego East High School, Community Unit School District 308
  • Amonaquenette Parker, B.S.Ed. ’98, Principal, Huntley Middle School, DeKalb Community School District 428
  • Christine Sefcik, M.S.Ed. ’96, Superintendent, Grant Community High School District 124
  • Tim Vincent, B.S.Ed. ’03, M.S.Ed. ’07, Ed.S. ’17, Superintendent, Galena Illinois School District 120

“We wanted people who are graduates of our program and/or participating ongoingly in our clinical supervision,” Pluim says, “and we wanted a diverse set of panelists – small, large, urban, rural – and I think we achieved that.”

The topic obviously resonates not with only parents, families, educators and taxpayers but current graduate students, she says.

“Our department deals with individuals who are becoming school business administrators, principals and superintendents,” Pluim says, “and as they are doing their internships, and they’re going through the process of becoming leaders in their field, they’re also navigating a pandemic, which is pretty unique. What are schools doing? What have they been doing? What is the plan?”

Carolyn Pluim
Carolyn Pluim

She shares Gibson’s curiosity on the road ahead.

“One big question I have, and I think that we have in higher education also, is if it’s even possible for schools to return to the way they were before last March,” says Pluim, the mother of two teen sons. “Will we ever be able to go back to what we’ve been in the past now that we’ve experienced, at least in our area, almost a year-and-a-half of online learning at home? Do we need to consider this as a viable option moving forward?”

Gibson, who is “on the ground” in Paw Paw and only three years removed from her superintendency of Hononegah Community High School District 207, believes that her colleagues have shown a commitment to transparency and the opinions of parents and families.

They’re also up for the challenge, she says.

“For a lot of us – for all of us – it’s taken us to a new level we’ve not had to experience before. Is that good or bad? It just is,” Gibson says.

“The educators are being educated. It has pushed us to our limits, and now our limits and our capacity are greater than they were a year ago. We’ve definitely not had just a learning curve; it’s really been straight up, and every time it felt like it was curving a little bit, it would go up again,” she adds. “We need to welcome that capacity-building, and least most of the time, because it makes us better educators and it makes us better teachers.”

Students in Educational Administration programs benefit as well.

“Although I’d rather not be in a global pandemic, we are – and we might as well be getting that expertise,” Gibson says. “This may not be the experience we wanted them to have, but it’s the experience they need because that’s what we need right now.”

For more information, contact Dana King at [email protected] or 815-753-5421.