Throughout our country today, we are witnessing some of the best examples of decision making on the local, state and national levels as it relates to our nation’s COVID-19 crisis.

Then we, too, are seeing evidence of some of the most irresponsible behaviors among some leaders at all levels of governance in our nation as it relates to the health of all Americans.

We see some people in leadership, irrespective of political affiliation, faith, gender, ethnicity or socio-economic status, take corrective health measures that are in the best interest of all its citizens.

Remember the phrase projected at the beginning of our country’s initial response to the pandemic, “We are all in this together”? Well, it is apparent that some of us have forgotten the inclusiveness of that phrase and have donned the cloak of selfish motives.

I can think of more than 132,000 reasons why the wearing of a mask should be about the health protection of others, as well as one’s self, and not about one’s support and following of the example set by the 45th president of the United States. We should not be forgetful of the medical professionals whose lives remain on the line in our medical facilities every day. We should not be forgetful of our first responders who sacrifice for our communities every day, and like our medical professionals, look forward to returning home to their families after having performed their duties.

As school administrators, teachers, media specialists, school nurses, office staff, guidance counselors, classroom assistants, food service, custodial and other maintenance workers, and bus drivers, we now see why it is so challenging to get some students to follow directions. Mixed messages from a divided leadership is a recipe for consequences that are a detriment to our society and family structure.

Effective leadership does not demand 100% agreement on all matters. However, intelligent leadership listens to his or her experts and support staff as it relates to choosing the best option that is in the best interest of those being served.

While I was an assistant principal and principal, our administrative team had our share of false fire alarms and bomb threats over the years. The bottom line was always what is in the best interest of the students, faculty and support staff: SAFETY! Consequently, we emptied the building(s) until our first responders told us that it was safe to re-enter.

There are two ways a decision is considered to be made rational. One is by process and the other by outcome. As an educational leadership team, we made decisions in the best interest of students, faculty and support staff that were (1) educationally sound, (2) in the best interests of safety and (3) what was fair and equitable to all concerned.

The primary key to having a safe and productive work environment is to earn the trust of your co-workers and customers. As parents, guardians, all school personnel and the various communities anticipate the opening of the 2020-2021 school year, we should not be surprised at the possibility of having to make needed adjustments. Those among us who choose not to wear a mask — proceed. However, do not be surprised when our scientists and medical professionals talk about the empirical data that supports the wisdom of taking needed safety measures, though undesirable, yet necessary for the health of all.

Some things like wearing the mask, social distancing and minimizing trips from home are under our control. Because we cannot control the behavior of other adults, thus the adverse consequences we as a nation face today.

Between now and the proposed opening dates for colleges, universities, technical schools and all K-12 schools, some of the most detailed planning will be needed for every aspect of the curriculum — from the time the students leave home in the morning until the time the students return in the afternoon or evening. The adaptation for the school buses, car lines, offices, classrooms, media centers, cafeterias, gymnasiums, restrooms, school staffs — all need teamwork planning from the national, state and local school district levels.

Time is out for our children in particular, and our society in general, seeing the behavior of men and women of immoral conformity rather than men and women of moral excellence and conviction. When our students and staff return to school, there will be a serious need for the re-establishment of positive interpersonal and group relationships with students, administrators, faculty and support staff to help overcome what has or has not happened in the past five to six months.

Too, there is the matter of making adjustments to the employment of new staff members. Depending on the scientific data, the time could be extended. The mental and physical health of all of us needs the proper care and attention.

Not having school the past nearly five months has caused some principals and teachers to be concerned about all of their students, yet, particularly about those they know to be the most vulnerable to hurt, harm, danger and a lack of nutritious meals. Some major adjustments will be needed for students and adults. Such adjustments will require caring and compassionate adults and organizations that will value people first above things — service above self.

The resource reference, “Skills You Need,” lists the following as a recommended framework for making effective decisions.

Listing possible solutions/options.

Setting a time scale and deciding who is responsible for the decision.

Information gathering.

Weighing up the risks involved.

Deciding on values.

Weighing up the pros and cons.

Making the decision.

Each one of the above steps is important. One cannot underestimate the value of input from the employees closest to the people being served. Being in the pandemic together implies a teamwork decision.

Criticism is a part of the territory that comes with leadership. However, understandable anger should not lead to permissiveness to inflict hurt or harm to others.

My prayer is that we all return to school and work with a positive attitude. In the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, “Exercise the right to dream. You must face reality — that which is. But then dream of the reality that ought to be, that must be. Live beyond the pain of reality with the dream of a brighter tomorrow. Use hope and imagination as weapons of survival and progress. Use love to motivate you and obligate you to serve the human family.”

Allie E. Brooks Jr. is the former superintendent of Florence School District One and a past principal of Wilson High School.

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