We are grateful to have students back in class, hoping “normal” will return soon

He praised the teachers, the staff, the cafeteria workers, really all the adults, for working through the pandemic and always doing what was best for the students.

Staggs said the “emotional stress” of the pandemic has taken its toll on Madison’s teachers and students and it may take some time to feel “normal” again.

Buskirk said Monroe has seen “exaggerated” behaviors related to COVID-19. He mentioned speaking to a second-grade teacher who told him his students had only experienced education during the pandemic.

“They don’t know how to do it normally,” he told the Forest Hills Country Club crowd.

The three school leaders spoke of the need to create students who graduate with the skills needed to succeed in secondary education, the job market or the military. Districts should work closely with local employers who are struggling to fill vacancies, they said.

They were asked if money was not a problem, if there was no need for a collection campaign, what would they change in their districts.

Buskirk said the Monroe campus was built to accommodate 1,800 students. Enrollment is 2,300, so whenever a staff member suggests a new program, the first hurdle is “where do we put them,” he said.

Staggs said he would raise the salaries of all teachers in the district. Madison wants to recruit and retain the “best and brightest people” and sometimes that’s impossible because of the district’s pay scale, he said.

The No. 1 factor in a student’s success is “the people in front of them,” he said.

Styles said his wish list extends outside of school buildings in the city where 25% of residents live below the poverty line, about double the Butler County average. Every student in the district is entitled to free and reduced federal school meals.

“Ending poverty,” Styles said. “End stop. End of story.”

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