School districts across Connecticut are struggling through staffing shortages, causing delays and school cancelations.
“Our schools are open. I think we got our schools open safely, but there are some kids now who are not coming into the classroom and that makes teaching complicated,” said Gov. Ned Lamont at a news conference Tuesday. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure your school can open safely. You can see that we’re making that our number one priority and I think we can succeed.”
Lamont and other officials doubled down on in-person learning, and the Connecticut Department of Public Health released new guidance Monday to keep kids in school.
This is the third calendar year of the pandemic, and the omicron variant has once again forced school systems to rethink how to live and teach with COVID.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona discussed the push to keep schools open in an interview with NPR.
“I believe – what we’ve known from the beginning is that COVID typically doesn’t spread in our schools. It spreads in our community and it comes into our schools,” said Secretary Cardona. “So I agree that we must continue the conversation about how to keep our schools open, managing COVID and not allowing it to disrupt our schools, and understanding that we have to – our default needs to be that our students belong in the classroom.”
Secretary Cardona was optimistic about how district leaders are handling people shortages. “Well, what we’ve seen from the beginning is districts across the country do have strategy to have more additional staff members in their buildings,” he said. “And I think what we’re seeing is as people come back from their vacations or from their breaks, they’re finding that they have COVID. I do anticipate that, with the use of mitigation strategies, we will be able to have our staff in.”
Cardona was sworn in as the 12th Secretary of Education on March 2nd, 2021. It was his response to the COVID-19 pandemic leading to the safe school reopening efforts in Connecticut when he served as the Commissioner of Education that got the attention of President Joe Biden.
Cardona began his career as a fourth-grade teacher at Israel Putnam Elementary School in Meriden. In 2003, at Hanover Elementary School, he was promoted and made the youngest principal in the state’s history. From 2015 to 2019, Cardona served as Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning in his hometown. Cardona was also an adjunct professor of education in the University of Connecticut’s Department of Educational Leadership.
The son of Puerto Rican parents, Cardona has focused on closing gaps between English-language learners and their peers during his career. “I think that being bilingual and bicultural is an asset,” Cardona explained.
A lifelong Meriden resident, Dr. Cardona attended Meriden Connecticut Public Schools and graduated from Wilcox Technical High School. He attended CCSU for his Bachelor’s degree and UCONN where he completed a Master’s in Bilingual/Bicultural Education, Administrator Preparation Program, Doctorate in Education, and Executive Leadership Program (Superintendent) Certificate.
Cardona was the first Latino to hold the state’s top education position when Lamont appointed him in August 2019. He is the second Puerto Rican and the third Hispanic-Latino secretary of education, after John B. King, Jr., who served in the Obama administration, and Lauro Cavazos, who served in the Reagan and Bush administrations.
Cardona and his wife Marissa Pérez have two children. When asked if given a chance, what would he say to parents who are concerned about the safety of their kids at school, Cardona said, “I’ll put my parent hat on, and I’ll say to them what I know to be true. If our schools are following the mitigation strategies that they’re supposed to be following, if I’ve given my children an opportunity to get vaccinated, and if I talk to them openly about the importance of protecting themselves and others, they’ll have the best opportunity to succeed in the classroom, and they can do it safely.”
Cover Photo Credit: Miguel Cardona confirmed as education secretary