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How COVID brought this district closer together–even when everyone was apart

With fall decisions looming, learn how this district tech director is looking at some of the biggest COVID-related challenges for students, educators, and parents

Jenith Mishne is a relentlessly positive person. Not even a global pandemic can dampen her enthusiasm when talking about her job as Director of Education Technology in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District (CA), where she serves 22,500 students at twenty-two elementary schools, two intermediate schools, four high schools, one alternative education center, and one adult education center.

Some of the district’s top strategic decisions include:

  • Acting fast to create a “Fall 2020” committee positions this district to tackle next fall with all stakeholder input
  • A flexible grading policy that reflects a new remote learning reality
  • Recognizing that social and emotional well-being is key

In this conversation with eSchool News, Mishne finds the silver linings in the world’s largest beta test for remote learning—from device management to compassionate teacher professional development and better community communication. She also shares some of her thoughts about how education can grow from this tragedy.

Related content: How this district made the remote transition

eSN: What was the district’s device situation when the lockdown orders came?

JM: Luckily we were in year four of a Chromebook implementation with about 18,000 Chromebooks. Grades five through 12 had a device. Third and fourth grades had one-to-one in the classroom, but they were in carts, zip tied down—so you can imagine that transition process. And then pre-K through two had shared carts. We did have to regroup and deploy about 5,000 more Chromebooks and the first wave we did it to families that stated they needed a device. But moving forward, we are just going to go one-to-one, K through 12.

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