A Message from Superintendent Pero: Welcome back to the 75th year of PCSD excellence

Dear PCSD Families and Staff,

There is no better way to start our 75th anniversary than by welcoming our students and families back to full in-person K-12 school. Pittsford Central School District’s resilience and dedication to students’ success while persevering through a world pandemic mirrors the rich history of PCSD and its founding shortly after the conclusion of World War II (WWII). Soldiers were returning home from war to find shortages in jobs, housing, food and materials. Amid these struggles following the Great Depression and WWII, there was hope. The baby boom commenced, the United Nations (U.N.) International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) was created and automation was transforming how goods were produced. Even during this historically challenging time for people around the world and across our nation, leaders at home in Pittsford moved forward their pledge to educate students, connect with families and carry out every function of a school district to provide the kind of education that would best prepare children for a rapidly evolving world.

Our resilience has again been tested during this world pandemic, and we have held strong to our commitment to provide excellence in education despite the hurdles of COVID-19 and the ever-evolving mandated guidelines for the health and safety of our students and community. Just as Pittsford residents long ago could not imagine a second World War breaking out, we could not have imagined that students and staff would be sent home in March 2020 and would not return to classrooms as a whole until now. We couldn’t have predicted that during this period much of the world would be in lock down, travel would be restricted, masks would need to be worn everywhere, and there would be shortages of food, massive job losses, and millions of lives lost across the globe.

What if in 2019 I asked you to try to visualize what all of this would look like? And what if I followed up by asking you how we would get through this? My sense is that this probably would have been too much of an abstract thought to conceptualize. But, the scenario as described indeed happened and while it has been isolating, terrifying, frustrating, draining, and sad, know that you persevered. You showed your resilience in ways that may have even surprised yourself.

While COVID-19 impacted all businesses in many different ways, it turned education upside down. It forced every student, parent/guardian, and staff member to reach deep inside and find ways to not only take care of our loved ones, but to continue our current day pledge to educate students. To quote Vivian Greene, “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” And dance we did.

We created protocols to keep staff and students safe, were required to test students and staff for COVID-19 throughout the year, became contact tracers, created reporting mechanisms, performed routine disinfecting and cleaning, altered bussing protocols, and adapted to new ways to serve food to students and staff. Our school nurses never broke stride and performed at an elite level as job expectations expanded. School bus drivers helped ensure the safe transportation of students with the wearing of masks, adjusting seat assignments for social distancing, and extra cleaning of interior surfaces. Elementary teachers and school-related professionals played a vital role in ensuring K-5 buildings were open five days a week and performed critical support functions at the secondary level. Teachers found inventive ways to teach despite COVID-19 restrictions and remained optimistic and dedicated to student success throughout these past 18 months. Existing classrooms and other spaces were repurposed to ensure social distancing and new technology, and distance-learning tools were utilized to ensure connectivity for all. Every student’s physical and mental well-being remained a priority as teachers, counselors and support staff worked in tandem to change how services were delivered to all students while also helping those struggling the most.

The stress of the pandemic and the devastation it was wreaking worldwide could have fractured us. Instead, it made us stronger. As students, parents, teachers and staff, we found ways to persevere, stay connected and continue to grow and learn, all the while being championed by the dedicated volunteers who serve on the Board of Education. 

Every single person, every single department went well above and beyond expectations as we did not have time to wait for the storm to pass. Learning to really dance in the rain was illustrated through incredible acts of kindness to one another, students and families. We danced as a District when we distributed $60,000 in grocery gift cards to those in need, when we came together as a community for the senior parade, when we found ways to celebrate our students at year end, when we learned and grew from one another through Professional Learning Communities (PLC), restorative circles and department work, when we provided community Facebook events, when we made home visits, when we covered one another’s classrooms and other duties and when we reached out on very personal levels to staff and families going through a difficult time. We danced in the rain during the toughest global times in our lives.

I am hopeful that the amount of work and emotional energy spent over these past 18 months leaves you with some of the same lessons that I have gleaned. Lessons about what is truly important in life, about how important it is to slow down and appreciate what is around you, how to appreciate the little things and not sweat the small stuff, time with family, self-care, humility, power of humor and how precious life is and relationships are. And...how important schools are for students and families. The amount of care that was shown around our District and how we lived our values should make everyone one of us proud to be associated with Pittsford Schools, and I could not be prouder to be your Superintendent.

As I think about this school year, I am aware that our students and families will again count on us as they will need support more than ever. Our goal is to fully open schools knowing the trauma so many students have experienced, simply from not being in school full time for the last 18 months. Our teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, nurses, support staff, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, maintenance and cleaning staff, and every individual who works for PCSD is ready and excited to welcome students back. As our year unfolds, our focus will continue where we left off in 2019 on creating an inclusive and equitable experience for all students, one where no student ever feels the need to check their culture or self at the door and be someone else to simply fit in. This work has never been more important and our scope of work was shared with staff these past few days. Our collective differences need to be viewed as strengths and our practices need to meet the unique needs in an equitable fashion for every student that steps on one of our buses, walks through our buildings and enters our classrooms. I am excited to do this work with you.

Finally, know that whatever is thrown at us this year, we will take it in stride. We are entering the year with relatively high COVID-19 numbers but this is balanced with a high rate of vaccinations in Monroe County and our layered strategy of masking, social distancing, cleaning and disinfecting, and health screenings to keep everyone safe.  

To help you prepare for the new school year, please use the below links related to our COVID-19 protocols and strategies and a Questions/Answers document intended to answer some of the frequently asked questions we’ve been receiving:

Like last year, I anticipate there would be highs and lows, and we will roll with them by adjusting practices where and if needed. The year 2021 marks 75 years of excellence in education at Pittsford Central School District, and I thank you all for the role you play in helping to ensure the education and well-being of each child in our community.

I look forward to a remarkable year and hope each of you finds those opportunities to dance in the rain.

Sincerely,

Michael Pero
Superintendent of Pittsford Schools