Serving as the principal of a school entails a variety of responsibilities, ranging from being a role model to representing the institution with the responsibilities that accompany that role. However, within the global pandemic of COVID, the weight of leadership has grown increasingly in a variety of new ways.
“It’s heavy. Often in schools, people take education very seriously, me, among them, I’ve spent my whole life in it. So education is hugely important to me. A student might work hard and have their heart set on going to Holy Cross, but if you don’t get in a Holy Cross, and you end up going to UMass, your life’s not over, you’re gonna be okay. It’s not a life or death situation, you could still be madly successful in life. Corona feels different. There are moments that if we don’t get our health and safety right, it could be heavy. That’s hard,” said Dr. Jaimie Chisum, the principal of the high school.
A principal spends a lot of time listening to community concerns. A main concern includes the safety of the students: the lack of masks or social distancing occurring at times. These worries are addressed by the administration through weekly newsletters or emails aimed at parents, guardians, including students as well.
“Every single time I write to families right now, I write about the importance of wearing masks, the importance of washing hands, the importance of staying physically distanced outside of school, as well as inside. And why do I write about it every time? It seems like it’s falling on deaf ears sometimes and because I think that the consequences could be dire,” said Chisum.
The newly formed environment from COVID-19, not only raises safety concerns but also creates a necessity to take care of oneself.
“I want to encourage people to be gentle with themselves, that’s a goal. In this environment, we’re more tired than we normally are because we’re thinking about things in addition to what we already were busy thinking about. You had the election, uncertainty about the COVID, all these safety and health regulations, on top of being a student, growing up, trying to become individualized,” said Chisum.
Chisum emphasizes the principles of education and the ways in which everyone is learning and growing.
“I think [I’ve learned] the importance of flexibility. Things that we thought couldn’t ever possibly be different, have had to be different and we’re okay. We hold high standards across the board, and we don’t like to compromise those standards. The pandemic has forced us to change how we do business. We learn to accept what we have to accept and that’s been a big learning for me,” said Chisum.
“Learning does not begin and end at the schoolhouse door. Learning can happen in so many different ways. The fact that you also learned about a pandemic this year, and how to manage it and get through it and take care of family, your friends, how to self-sacrifice, those are important learnings too.”