Special education administrator has never been an easy job, but it has gotten infinitely more challenging since the onset of the COVID era, and this fall has been particularly rough. It seems like every admin we’ve talked to in the last few weeks is overwhelmed with a daily deluge of seemingly impossible decisions with far-reaching consequences. While we don’t have all the answers, here are three back-to-basics rules that will help you allocate your resources, stay compliant, and ensure you retain the staff you have.
Rule #1: Prioritize direct student contact
Student service delivery is the primary, core function of special education, and you need to do whatever it takes to make this happen. Yes, you might have to do things that are different from what you’ve always done. They might be things that you don’t consider ideal. They might even be things that you don’t particularly want to do. But if kids aren’t being served in your district, leave all of that at the door and figure out a way to get them seen. Whether it’s rearranging provider workload, choosing teleservices or an SLPA to provide some services, or some other creative solution, it’s time to make it happen.
Rule #2: Don’t make things worse
In your quest to follow Rule #1, be mindful that you continue to support your staff and that you do not add to their workload. They are overloaded and overwhelmed, too, and many are on the brink of leaving the profession or already have. And you know what will make an already bad situation even worse? An unexpected staff vacancy. If you need ideas and inspiration about supporting your staff during uncertain and challenging times, these tips that we shared last year are a great place to start.
Rule #3: One foot in front of the other
There are times in life when we can think Big Thoughts about Big Issues and contribute to Big Solutions. Now is not one of those times. Instead, this is a time to ask yourself, “what is the next right thing I can do?” and then focus on doing that thing. It’s a time to sit down and make a list of what absolutely must be done (with due dates!) and diligently work through it even if you won’t meet all deadlines. It’s a time to learn to be okay with all of the things not getting done and to model that okay-ness for your staff explicitly.
These are exceptionally challenging times in public education in general and in special education specifically. Very few decisions feel easy right now, but remember, no storm lasts forever. Just keep reminding yourself to center kids, take care of your staff, and know that this too shall pass.