When the status quo is shaken to the core, be it by virus or by violence, communities look to local leaders – including school board members and administrators.

In this video provided by Sourcewell, Joe Erardi—retired superintendent of Newtown, Conn., and recognized school safety and leadership expert—shares valuable lessons on how to effectively lead in the midst of the unknown. They are lessons Erardi learned while leading the recovery after the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Among other wisdom, Erardi emphasizes strategies that combine the head and the heart.

“Always, always prepare for the worst case scenario,” said Erardi during the discussion, stating he can see “at some point in this country, at some time, somebody standing in front of a school board and saying ‘You said it was safe to go back to school, and look what my family has suffered. Look what my family has lost.'”

To ensure school leaders are as prepared as possible to prevent such scenarios, this video covers a variety of critical topics for these unprecedented times, including:

  • Communicating with families who have suffered loss
  • Determining when to return to brick-and-mortar schools
  • Working with families who are uncomfortable returning
  • Preparing for positive test results after a return to school
  • Forming a new definition of school safety

In the video, Erardi said his message is directed toward school leaders, including administrators, superintendents, principals, operation directors, and anyone in a district that is a decision maker.

“What they will not hear is a sales pitch for any product,” Erardi said. “And what they will not hear is a consultant looking for additional business in your district. I’m speaking to you from my head and from my heart.”

Erardi likens his experience following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, in some ways, to what the country is experiencing through the pandemic.

“You’re trying to stay in front of the unknown,” Erardi says, addressing school leaders. “You’re trying to recover from something that feels that will always be with you. I want to share with you, strategies that I felt were successful in Newtown. I want to share with you, strategies that I believe are situations that will make you a stronger leader moving forward to the new school year.”

Leading through the unknown starts with a plan. Sourcewell is proud to partner with Joe Erardi in supporting school leaders as they prepare safe classrooms for students. We encourage you to not only view the full-length video here, but to also share with colleagues across the district, state, and country.

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