Keene, NH - 4/11/2022: The last two and a half years presented unique and exceptional challenges to the seven school districts making up SAU 29. Beginning with a viral pandemic of unprecedented scope and impact, our school districts were presented with continuously changing information and recommendations around Covid; constant and frequently conflicting guidance and directives from federal, state, and local governments and health departments; wildly divergent opinions and desires regarding the scope and nature of safety precautions; the need to plan for, develop, and implement multiple different forms of student instruction; reinvention of food services, technology services, and student transportation; staffing shortages due to covid; and staffing shortages due to the labor market emerging from the pandemic.
Throughout this period the leadership of Superintendent Robert Malay has been vital to our districts. His training and experience in crisis management from his previous position has proven to be invaluable to the SAU. While it is often not apparent to the public, Mr. Malay’s calm approach, tireless work ethic, and consistent and transparent messaging set the tone for the central office during this period. As a result Mr. Malay and his staff were frequently able to anticipate changes in guidance and directives several weeks before those changes were issued, allowing the SAU districts time to prepare for the changes. On several occasions the models and practices instituted by Mr. Malay’s staff were cited as guides for the rest of the state.
This school year has brought new challenges. The pandemic is still prevalent. Our schools continue to face outbreaks, student absences, and staffing shortages resulting from Covid, while also navigating the academic loss and increased mental health and socialization challenges resulting from nearly two years of remote and partially remote learning. These challenges have been compounded by the constant barrage of misinformation, unsubstantiated rumor, and vitriol spread through social and traditional media. This has created significant challenges for all the staff, and especially the administrative leaders, of our schools, hampering their efforts to effectively address the very real challenges our schools are facing this year. As they continue to search for and implement solutions, our boards will continue to be available to assist parents and community with their questions and concerns as we all navigate what has been an extremely troubling year for some of our schools.
The SAU 29 School Board appreciates the work of Superintendent Malay and the central office staff in recognizing the unique challenges we face, working with building staff to look for solutions, bringing these proposals to our boards for our consideration, and continuing to assess the effectiveness of these measures and propose changes or new solutions. For these reasons the SAU 29 School Board voted unanimously on March 30 to affirm their continuing support for Superintendent Malay and the entire central office staff.
Ege Cordell, Chair, SAU 29 School Board
George Downing, Vice Chair, SAU 29 School Board