Jane Feinberg & Tracy Sawicki
Here we bring you the welcoming comments and opening remarks from Full Frame Communications Founder/Director Jane Feinberg and the Peter & Elizabeth Tower Foundation's Executive Director Tracy Sawicki that were shared at our kick-off to ECLC's monthly Community Convenings for the 2021-2022 school year, which took place yesterday on September 28th...
Remarks from Jane Feinberg
Hello, Essex County Learning Community!
If you have been in this space before, welcome back. We are so happy to see you! If this is your first time with ECLC, we extend a warm welcome to you.
As you may know, ECLC is designed to help you as educators set aside the time and space for planning, learning, and reflection that you may not get—or may not get nearly enough of—during the school day. It is also a space for taking risks, for innovating, and as important, for getting to know your colleagues who are near neighbors. Why is that important? Because we know that there is tremendous educator talent in Essex County—talent that must be optimized and shared widely on behalf of all young people in the County. We also know that you don’t have time to create this kind of cross-pollinated experience on your own; ECLC provides that for you.
To be clear, we are invested in the growth of this community, and the growth and development of each one of you. Our society’s systems are such that while educators have the backs of multiple stakeholders in service to children, not many have the backs of educators. ECLC aspires to be that for you. We want to be your trusted partners in a liberatory space that seeks only to support, not judge, you.
These days, I have been thinking a lot about signal vs. noise. If you follow the local, national, and educational press, you’ll know that there is a lot of noise at present: about mask and vaccine mandates, what to do about learning loss and standardized testing, how American history can be taught…Don’t get me wrong, these are important issues, but the noise they create can feel overwhelming and quash hope.
I am comforted by the knowledge that all of you are tuning out that noise and tuning into the signal: How are my students doing—physically, socially, emotionally, intellectually? How are their families doing? How will I create a sense of community in the classroom, the school, and the district that will provide a strong foundation for learning?
We are calling today’s gathering: “Vital Signs: Checking the Pulse of Our Community.” Just as you are assessing the conditions and needs of your classroom, school, or district, we must assess the conditions and needs of educators. ECLC is constructivist in orientation: we do not set a fixed agenda, but rather, develop our agenda based on your needs. So, I ask one thing of you today: please tell us honestly how we can support you. What do you need to do your work well? What do you want to learn more about? How can we feed your intellectual, social, emotional, even spiritual development? What can we do as a community that you, as a district, cannot do alone?
We are all fortunate to be supported by the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation, who has generously committed to another five years of support to ECLC. This long-term promise is rare in philanthropy, and it speaks to the Foundation’s commitment to live its own values and to its deep desire to provide educators with rich experiences that honor your intellect, talent, and dedication to your students and your craft.
With that, I would like to introduce Tracy Sawicki. As many of you know, she is the esteemed Executive Director of the Tower Foundation. Tracy asked to join us today and wants to share a few words with you...
Remarks from Tracy Sawicki
Hello everyone. I'm so delighted to be here. Thank you, Jane for the invitation. I will begin by saying: I hope your school year has gotten off to a great start. I know there was a lot of angst around it I know there was a lot of anxiety here in western New York where I'm physically located. I have grandkids who went back to school and friends who have kids who went back to school, and I'm married to a retired educator. So I know what the life of a teacher is like from sitting and listening to my husband—well, I shouldn't say I know it intimately, rather, I know it through him. I do know that this year is probably bringing some challenges, but I also know that you are all up for those challenges from the stories I've heard from Jane about the districts that have been involved with ECLC, and as evidenced by the work that you’ve engaged in over the past year and a half, specifically during this pandemic; it was yeoman's work! Your ability to adapt, stay sane, and really do what you thought was best for kids and for each other, makes me so excited about ECLC because I think no matter which community you're involved in, or what profession, having a network of others that you can learn from, and you can call upon to get support, is critical.
And so, it is a real honor for the foundation—really an honor and a privilege—to support you, because we believe that you deserve to be supported. Because when you get what you need, we firmly believe that the kids will get what they need. We think it's vital for you, particularly in this time, to have space where you can come together and do that supporting of each other and get that quality professional development that I know in my career I didn't have. We can bring that to you through ECLC and we're delighted to do that. We care deeply about what happens in Essex County, which is part of the family's geographic footprint. It’s very important to us to support those on the ground who are working directly with the kids, creating the future of Essex County.
I do not want to take more of your time, but I just wanted to say hello and that I am hoping your school year is off to a great start, and that you find that ECLC is of continuing value to you. My job now is just to “get out of your way!” Finally, I just want to end with expressing deep gratitude to you from the foundation trustees, from the staff, and everyone associated with the Tower Foundation, for all you do day-in and day-out to make sure that kids get what they need. We appreciate you and your many contributions to improving the quality of life in Essex County.