We had the election, celebrated American Education Week, and as the month comes to a close, we are taking a short break from school to gather with our families and friends to give thanks for the riches that life has given to us. All of these are a reason to give thanks.
First, most of you are probably happy that the election is behind us. The commercials are over, the signs are coming down, the results are in. While we did not elect a candidate with a proven record of supporting public education, we did engage many educators and parents across the state in a conversation about the importance of providing a great public education to every child from pre-K to higher ed. Elections are also not just about one candidate; they are about hundreds of candidates who are willing to put their names on the ballot in an effort to serve their communities and state. We did successfully elect many pro-public education friendly incumbents and elected some new friends to the legislature as well. While we didn’t elect every candidate we wanted, we did elect many who are going to come to Pierre in January ready to work for educators and students.
After the election, we celebrated American Education Week. Together, we celebrated public education and honored individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. We acknowledged the contributions of parents—our students’ first teachers; and we celebrated the substitutes who work with our students when educators are away. We honored the contributions of our ESP and their vitally important role in the education process. We invited policy makers into our schools so that they can have a better and deeper understanding of our responsibilities for and love of our students. During American Education Week, we give thanks for all those who make our public schools great.
Finally, as we approach Thanksgiving we have much success to be thankful for, but while we are giving thanks we can also reflect on we can do better. One of the tenets of Billie Sutton’s campaign was that working across the aisle is an important part of success. Our students are neither Republican nor Democrat. Instead, they are the future of our state; they cannot be pawns in a legislative battle between parties. It is our responsibility as educators to make every week American Education Week and to tell the stories of our students and ourselves. There is no one who cares more deeply about the students of this state than those who know the students by their first names, nor is there anyone else who knows more about what our students need to be successful. Bringing the groups of individuals that we celebrate during American Education Week along with us will make our voices even stronger.
Additionally, we must work to cultivate stronger existing legislative relationships and build new relationships. We must build a relationship with Governor-elect Noem. We know that we will not agree on everything, but we must follow the model of Billie Sutton and look for common ground and focus on moving forward. It is the right thing to do. I am thankful for the successful election of many friendly legislators. I am thankful for everything that you did to support pro-public education candidates, no matter the outcome of the race. I am thankful for our hardworking professional and associate staff who go above and beyond to support our members. I am especially thankful to each of you for everything you do for every student in your school. May you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends. Watch TV and movies, eat too much, tell stories and laugh until your sides hurt, and always know how much you are appreciated!
Mary J. McCorkle