School Business Affairs September 2020 SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS | SEPTEMBER 2020 5 P lanning for the first day of school this year has been different than in any previous year. Our parents are sharing their views about school being in-person or virtual. Some let us know they will make other arrangements for their child’s education if we don’t make the right decision. Others are physicians, sharing their expertise and asking for science-based policy decisions. As we make those decisions, we must remember the families we don’t hear from because those families are simply in sur- vival mode. We also are hearing from our staff mem- bers. Our county has the highest population in the state and will most likely be the last dis- trict to offer in-person education based on our governor’s health metrics. Some staff members are excited and ready to return to work; others are fearful about their compromised immune system or a family member’s health. Our custodians, cooks, and maintenance staff have been our frontline heroes, work- ing throughout the closure to deep clean, feed kids, and repair and maintain school facilities. We held a voluntary meeting with bus driv- ers who were afraid of being laid off because school would be virtual through the first quar- ter of the school year. We explained they would be the conduit between school and home, deliv- ering meals, library books, curriculum, devices, and hotspots. Some drivers asked what they could do with their kids while they worked. As I calmly gave the business response—that this was a personal decision every employee needed to make—my heart went out to them for their loyalty to the district while managing the pan- demic with limited resources. In preparing for this challenging year, I reviewed Margot Morrell and Stephanie Cap- parell’s Shackleton’s Way: Leadership Lessons from the Great Antarctic Explorer. Ernest Shackleton’s leadership strategies helped keep his 27 crew members alive for almost two years when they were stranded in the Antarctic. Here’s what I am focusing on from Shackle- ton’s courageous leadership lessons as we start the school year: Choose Optimism — Focus on the positive: kids learning and connecting with their friends and peers. “ The quality I look for most is optimism: especially optimism in the face of reverses and apparent defeat. Optimism is true moral courage.” Communicate — Communicate the vision for learning this year and communicate it again. Treat everyone with respect. Create a continu- ous feedback loop and listen with empathy. Be Flexible — Plan and be ready to update plans as staff and student needs and health fac- tors change. “ Need to put footprint of courage into stirrup of patience.” Model Behavior — Roll up your sleeves and help. Never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself. “ If you’re a leader, a fel- low that other fellows look to, you’ve got to keep going.” Maintain Morale — Find the joys of returning to school. Tweet, post stories of the great things happening in our schools. Remember that school is all about the people, not the physical building. “ Difficulties are just things to over- come, after all.” This is the time for courageous leadership— and with that comes courageous conversa- tions and difficult decisions. Our business and operational leadership are needed now more than ever. Take your seat at the leadership table and ask the hard questions, share the difficult answers. Keep at the forefront the ultimate goal: to ensure student learning in a safe and secure environment. Lessons from Antarctica By Claire Hertz, CSBA, SFO president’s message Claire Hertz, CSBA, SFO Deputy Superintendent, Business &Operations Portland (Oregon) Public Schools Tom Wohlleber, CSRM Immediate Past President Marvin Dereef Jr., SFO Director through 2020 Bill Sutter, SFO Director through 2020 2020 Board of Directors Ed Chabal Vice President David Ginsberg Director through 2022 Susan Harkin, SFO Director through 2021 Ryan Stechschulte Director through 2022 John Hutchison, CPA, SFO Director through 2021 David J. Lewis Executive Director