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Perspective | ‘Students must be at the center of everything that we do’

The start of any new school year is always cause for excitement, optimism and a celebration of all that is possible. This year brings even greater hopes for bright, new beginnings and the promise of a fresh start for students, teachers and school leaders across North Carolina.

After a year and a half of challenging uncertainty that all of you navigated with Herculean efforts to ensure that all students continued to learn and thrive – often from a distance – the start of the 2021-22 school year brings us all back to where we belong – face-to-face.

If ever we could celebrate new beginnings, this is the year. Remarkably, some students will be returning to invaluable classroom experiences for the first time since March 2020; many will be able to participate in important activities outside the classroom – on hold for just as long – that keep so many students engaged and excited to be in school.

Even as we recognize the continuing challenges associated with the delta variant as schools reopen, you and your school communities are poised not only to recover lost ground but to leap ahead. A better-than-normal school year is within our grasp. Let’s keep our students and staffs safe and healthy, but let’s not be distracted by the noise that often competes for our time and attention and can cause us to lose focus on what’s most important.

Students must be at the center of everything that we do.

Remember that you and your school leaders provide a steady hand, helping guide your communities through these times that bring both daily challenges, but also fresh opportunities. Your teachers, administrators, parents and students trust you and look to you for your strong leadership.

Our battle with the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the strength and fortitude of our public schools. Educators reimagined education nearly overnight to support students, academically and emotionally, proving once again that we are at our best when we keep students at the center of everything we do.

As your state leaders, we are steadfast in our commitment to ensuring that our schools have an excellent teacher in every classroom, supported by strong principals and superintendents’ sound leadership.

After the 18 months that we’ve been through together, I’m sure you’d agree that what we need, and what our students need, is teamwork, positive change, increased opportunity and access. We’ve got an unbelievable opportunity that awaits us.

Remember that the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction are here to support you in your efforts to make a reality of all that is possible for your schools and the students who depend on them.

We wish you a great start to what we’re confident will be a safe and productive 2021-22 school year.

Catherine Truitt

Catherine Truitt is the North Carolina State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Eric Davis

Eric Davis was appointed by Governor McCrory to the N.C. State Board of Education in January 2015. He previously served on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education representing District 5 and served as Chair from 2009 to 2011. After attending CMS and Lincoln County schools, his 32-year career includes service as an Airborne Ranger Combat Engineer Officer in the U.S. Army, a Professional Engineer in NC, and a Senior Vice President in the financial services industry.