Check out the agency’s Return-to-Work Plan.
Here comes the rain again…
Probably not many Eurythmics fans out there, but it is a pretty fitting title to the end of summer and the turn toward fall. The mood of the song (I’ll take songs from the 80’s for $100 Alex) fits the mood of many, a bit melancholy, with a touch of hopefulness. So, today I will talk just a bit about our work ahead, ask for your thoughts in this month’s Snapshot, think with you about equity, and babble a bit from the random bits that float inside my head.
The Year Ahead
This year we are launching a year like no other, with many of us working remotely, and all under changed circumstances. That is all pretty obvious stuff. What is less obvious is that we are going to engage with a deeper emphasis on understanding issues of race, equity and inclusion this fall. On October 9th we will hold our annual all staff event (9:00 AM, via Zoom). Our guest presenter, Jahmad Canley, will facilitate learning on race and anti-racism. He is also working with our equity team and leaders across the agency over the next 10 months. Our goal is to build our readiness to work toward our fourth goal of eradicating racism.
Over the next few months our equity team will plan a series of community caucuses. These gatherings for interested staff will be focused on topics of race and equity and are intended to provide safe spaces for sharing and learning. This year is a time to prepare for richer conversations and more authentic sharing. Watch for more opportunities to engage in this important work.
COVID-19 has disrupted our lives and work in countless and significant ways. As an ESD we are doing our best to support our region’s children, students, families, and communities through the hundreds of programs and services we provide. We also need to take time to connect with and support each other.
WeAreESD113 is more than a hashtag or catch-phrase, it represents the heart of who we are--A community. Communities have an identity; they look and feel connected. We are asking you to help us think creatively about how we can promote community, both now and into the future. Please take a few minutes to share your ideas in this month’s Snapshot Survey.
A Few Thoughts
When I was in 10th grade our teachers taught us country kids from Omak about etiquette. Many of us were going to the Jr. Prom, and almost everyone had not learned how to chew with our mouths closed (still working on that). I actually liked learning how I should behave at a formal dinner. Who knew there were so many forks you could use?
My mother worked hard to teach me to be a better person. My university professors tried to help me learn how to teach effectively. My neighbors have taught me how to keep my yard looking presentable. All around me, and throughout my life I have had the benefit of people teaching me the things I need to know and how to behave in ‘polite society’. One day, I might even learn to put all that learning into practice.
Oddly, nobody ever taught me how to talk about race and racism. No institution, family member or friend sat me down and shared how to recognize and respond to my own biases. I never heard, “You should call that person a black man, not African American.” How to refer to race is the simplest thing. Guess how little I was taught about how to talk about Black Lives Matter, or Reparations, or White Fragility…that’s right, nothing. I am not blaming anyone; I am just making an observation.
Talking about racism, or at least issues related to racism is uncomfortable. But, if we avoid the uncomfortable, we never change. If we surround ourselves by people who look and think like us, we are never challenged. If we fail to accept our own biases, we never confront the inconsistencies in our words and actions. Well, at least that is true for me.
This fall we are all invited to sit at the table together (at least virtually) and talk. My request is that we all give a little grace and assume positive intentions. Giving grace, rather than saying it, provides space for views that are different than our own to come to light. I know I have a long way to go in my journey toward growing up. My hope is that while we are trying to figure out which fork to use, we can laugh at ourselves and find comfort in our shared humanity.
I know, I know, where have I been? For those of you keeping score, I wanted to slow the rate of emails regarding COVID updates and news from the ESD to about once a month…so, here we are, another month.
Today I would like to share a bit about our “reopening” plans, talk about workplace safety, provide an opportunity for you to share how you are doing, and, as has become my habit, share a few random thoughts.
Way back in March, when COVID-19 was new (to us), it seemed like a temporary change in lives and lifestyles. Fast forward just a bit, and we all know that COVID-19 has influenced every aspect of our lives, from shopping to travel and everything in between. The ESD is similarly impacted. The working day for many staff remains virtual, and our buildings remain generally unused.
However, we are starting a new school year, and programs for children and youth are restarting too. Our Early Learning program will start the year entirely online, providing support to children and families through technology (with the obvious exception of food services). Olympic Academy will open behavioral instruction and support for students, but in a very different classroom environment, with face coverings for everyone. GRAVITY will open their doors for students, by appointment, and assist them in continued growth toward their goals through online systems. True North and other student support services are adopting new technology systems of care, but most of their services will be provided face-to-face.
The Tyee facility is open to the public only by appointment. Due to restrictions on meeting size and ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, we are not planning to open our main building to the public until after December 31, 2020. Obviously, if conditions shift and guidance allows for group meetings, or if our direct service programs begin to open more broadly, we will resume typical use of our building. Updated guidance from our local departments of health will direct our plans over the months ahead.
We are following public health and Labor and Industry guidance in all our workplaces. Employees working alone in an office, or in a cubicle with walls taller than 6 feet are not required to wear face coverings. Face coverings are required in common areas, when working closer than 6 feet from other staff or patrons, and when working in open spaces. Our facilities team will be placing reminders of our expectation to wear face coverings throughout our buildings. Your compliance with this requirement helps promote a safe work environment and will help to protect others from the risks of COVID-19.
Please take a moment to complete our Employee Snapshot for the month. We are checking on your sense of well-being, and exploring practices that help promote mental, emotional, and physical health. The survey results will inform training for leaders and supports for staff. Thank you in advance for taking a couple of minutes to share your thoughts.
Sharpen the Saw
I was helping a friend cut firewood this past week. We cut a few dead trees on their property and split the wood to help some local families with wood for the winter. Every couple of hours we would take a break and file the chainsaw. I asked my friend why we wasted time sharpening the saws when we could have just kept working. He said, “If we take time to sharpen the saw, we get more cut than if we just kept going.” What a great life-lesson!
Stephan Covey wrote about this principle in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Just working hard and not taking time to take care of yourself actually does not help you get more done. Taking a break to walk, or unplugging for a bit to think, rest and recover is a life-giving practice. Attending to your well-being, especially in a time of uncertainty and change, will keep you at your best.
Some things you can do to promote well-being:
Move to shift your mood - Take time to go for a walk. Just moving for 10 minutes a few days a week can lower stress and help you feel more resilient.
Connect - Reach out and make contact with important people in your life. Mask up and spend some time visiting. Give a friend a call and just ask what they have been doing. Contact with people you care about restores a sense of self-worth and connectedness.
Change your perspective - Get outside and take a few minutes simply noticing the world around you. Feel the sun, experience a breeze, listen to nature, feel the world beyond the walls of home and work. Mindful practices, being fully present, especially in nature, help to ground you and restores a sense of perspective.
Take care of yourself. You are our most important resource. Remember, life is much more like a marathon than a sprint. To me that means setting goals to keep focused, working with people who I can encourage and who will support me, and taking time to sharpen the saw. Putting these things into practice will help us all flourish, not just today, but over the long-haul.
I hope you are doing well and enjoying this amazing summer weather. I personally enjoy seeing people having fun and feeling the warmth of sunlight shining on me while in the middle of another Zoom session. I think Zoom is ancient Persian for, “Torture, isolation and suffering.” I’m not sure, but I just have this thought…
Beyond venting my teleconference frustrations, the purpose of this email is to provide you with a brief update on our current plans and to share a few random thoughts about the meaning of life. New guidance from county departments of health is influencing local district opening status and will also impact our services.
From the beginning of this crisis, we have framed our decisions within a consistent set of ESD priorities:
- Safety: Ensure the continued health and wellness of our staff and the children and youth we serve.
- Support: Provide support services for children and youth, and serve as a resource for school districts to help them meet the needs of their communities.
- Engagement: Deliver educational enrichment to children and youth, and professional learning to educators.
- Employment: Within funding constraints maintain our high-quality workforce to remain prepared to meet current and future needs of our staff and those we serve.
Child and Student Services Reopening
With clear and defensible guidance from local authorities regarding child and student services, and likely similar guidance from state leaders, I will bring the following recommendations for program reopening to our Board at their August 12 meeting.
- Early Learning: Online-only service delivery to children and families through September 30, 2020
- Olympic Academy: Face-to-face instruction
- GRAVITY: Hybrid of face-to-face and online instruction
- True North: Hybrid of face-to-face and online services
Obviously, if state or local authorities revise their guidance, we will adjust these plans. I will revisit our program service models regularly, and programs may need to change modes quickly as the COVID situation changes.
We will continue to monitor local and state guidance to ensure we are responding to their directives. The Thurston County Department of Health has strongly suggested that schools remain closed to face-to-face instruction. As a result, the Tyee facility will remain closed to non-scheduled public access through December 31, 2020, or until local school districts reopen for face-to-face services. Staff may continue to use the facility, but please check with your supervisor and complete a health screening checklist before entry. The Executive Team and I will be on-site on a rotating schedule throughout each week if you need to contact us.
We are revising our telecommuting policy, procedures and forms. Once our Board has reviewed and approved our policies (during their regular August meeting), we will ask supervisors to submit updated telecommuting agreements. Staff who are working remotely will need to have a new telecommuting form on file before September 1, 2020. Most staff will remain in their current work assignments through September 30, 2020. We will actively monitor state and local directions to school districts and other employers. We will update our direction regarding work assignments by mid-September.
I have hope. I hold it inside like a carefully guarded flame on a windy day. Hope is a choice, a belief, a life-giving force. According to Victor Frankl, holocaust survivor and author of “Man’s Search for Meaning,” hope is an act of internal defiance that fights against the external realities of our lives. Hope may not change the realities of our day, but it changes how we experience them.
I have to confess, I am tired of working at a distance, I miss the presence of my ESD community. I miss the freedoms of travel and seeing faces not just eyes above masks. But I feel increased gratitude for the simple moments in my life. In the midst of uncertainty, I find myself more certain about my purpose and identity. The discipline of choosing hope over melancholy is taking time, but I feel stronger in many ways now.
In the words of Frankl: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” You might ask what difference hope might make. For me, it helps me put into practice the daily work of self-care (sleep, diet, exercise, and community). Absent hope life settles into the mundane and purposeless, and we lose our way.
Well, we are halfway through July already…sunshine and cosmic events since the last time I wrote. I trust you remain well, life is filled with wonder, and you found time to take care of yourself. It is important, practicing that self-care thing…breathe, reflect, feel gratitude, remain connected in community, it helps to keep perspective.
Today I am writing to share a bit of news, provide a summary of our most recent employee snapshot and drag you into a thought or two rolling around in my head.
Budget and Salaries
Earlier this month the ESD Board of Directors passed our budget, which included our plan for next year’s salaries. We work hard to ensure we pay you consistently, fairly and equitably. Our process for annual salary changes comes from: 1) Market analysis of similar positions, 2) Job reclassifications, 3) Step increases and, 4) Cost of living adjustments. By paying attention to all four each year we successfully attract and retain amazing workers like all of you. (And hopefully helping you find a place that is great to work too!)
This year we are paying attention to the uncertainty in our state budget, and as a result, we are approaching salary planning with more than our usual caution. The board adopted structure for salaries is:
Early Learning employees will receive a COLA based upon their federal funding, subject to the final Bargaining agreement.
Certificated positions will receive the annual experience increase.
No general salary step increase for classified positions will be provided.
A proposed 2% COLA effective January 1st is included. However, the final decision will be made by our Board in December, once we have a better sense of how the ESD is impacted by COVID 19 through the fall.
Certain positions were reclassified based upon market studies that showed we had fallen behind. Notices are being sent to each of the individually affected employees.
We had 58 staff respond to last week’s snapshot survey. Our goal remains to hear from you regularly and to check in to see how we can be of more help. I am pleased to share 53% of you felt ‘On top of things’. While down from last time, still a pretty positive result. We continue to see some who are feeling like they are drowning. If you feel this way, be sure to reach out for help. Our employee assistance program is available, but so are the rest of your co-workers.
We also asked what you were proud of since the ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’ order was instituted. The vast majority of you reported developing or expanding your skills, specifically with technology tools. Others reported completing classes, connecting more with peers, or creating new solutions to problems. We have lots to celebrate and an amazing staff to recognize.
I sat and watched the sun go down last week, waiting for the blur that is comet Neowise to appear. I saw it! It was amazing! I have to confess, binoculars helped. That same night, I also saw three moons around Jupiter (Ah, Galileo would be smiling). Sitting in the warmth, looking up at the night sky, I thought about the journey of a comet and the journey of life.
Neowise was just discovered this March, about the same time as we started in on this whole COVID thing. By now you know Neowise will not be back for 6,000+ years. Our life, a blip on that scale. The last time it visited, we humans had not even started writing things down (Sumerians did that about 5,000 years ago). Who knows what things will look like the next time Neowise is around?
It puts it all in perspective…the worries of a day, a week, or even a lifetime. Running around, staying busy, working on email, fretting about budgets and people and relationships…they all fade in the blurry tail of a comet and the points of light in a clear sky.
Sitting and watching the sky gloriously fade from blue, to red, to deep purple, made me think of the children’s story, The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, which like all good children’s stories is not really for children at all. The Prince, thinking about the people he met said, “All grown-ups were once children...but only few of them remember it.”
I have to confess to feeling a bit too grown-up of late. I worry…I plan…I try to control what cannot be controlled. I have let some of the wonder slip from my world, and I almost missed the blur of a comet blazing in the night because I was so busy doing things and not seeing things.
My final thought for you all today. Don’t take it all so seriously. Slow down and sit and watch the stars on an evening this summer and think about the child you once were. Let a bit of the grown-up melt away and feel the wonder of a much larger story.
I trust you had a good week, and that you are looking forward to a restful weekend. The days just fly, and as we near the middle of summer (really?) and turn toward planning for restarting school (what?), I thought I’d send a bit of an update on a few things around the ESD.
Board and Budget
The Capital Region Board approved our budget for 2020-21. With thanks to Cal and Keley and all our program leaders, we have prepared a plan for the year ahead that reflects the best of what we know today…of course, then tomorrow comes, and we will respond to its new reality.
Our budget happens to be the largest ever approved by our board. How can that be in a time of COVID-19? In short, we continue to flourish. While some programs are facing the headwinds of uncertainty, others are sailing downwind with a strong breeze at their backs.
- Our new School Safety Center has 83% of our districts
- Nearly all our districts have joined our Digital Learning consortium
- The Olympic Academy is poised to grow by an additional 50%
- Special Education services are expanding
- Early Learning has continued Federal support
The Board also took action to recruit and eventually fill the vacancy in Director District #5, which resulted from the passing of Bill Williams. We will solicit nominations and collect applications through August 10. If you know someone living in the North Thurston Public Schools service area (District #5) who might be interested in serving on our Board, please consider nominating them.
Reopening and Restarting
Our Tyee building still feels empty most days, but it is good to see staff in the halls. If you stop in, you will find our paving project is complete (hopefully no more lakes during heavy rains). You’ll see touch-free faucets, physical-distancing signs on floors, and staff with face coverings (BTW — we have some cool ESD-branded face coverings now, and will be distributing them to staff). We are doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19.
Our programs are working through the challenges of planning to restart child and student services this fall. Early Learning is preparing to serve children and GRAVITY and Olympic Academy are planning for students to return. Their teams are working like mad to understand how to screen, serve, and ensure safety. Our goal is to provide face-to-face services right away but, like our local school districts, staff are preparing to shift quickly to hybrid or online services as the situation requires.
You may not know this, but I love to sail. There is something magical about the moment when the boat’s engine stops, the wind begins to fill the sails, and the sounds become the wind, the waves, and the creaking of lines. At that instant, time slows down, and a sense of peace almost always settles on me.
While sailing these past 20 years, I have also learned about navigating, history, weather, physics, and teamwork. I have made a ton of mistakes. I have a storehouse of incredible memories. I have also been terrified in unexpected storms — scared that I was not ready to face the challenge of the moment. All in all, though, know I have been truly blessed — grateful for each moment and privileged both in experiences and circumstances.
We have been in a bit of a storm these past few months. There have been lessons learned as we have found our way through uncertainty. We have developed new strengths and have grown in our resilience. We have learned new ways of working and connecting. We have also found new means to be relevant and visible to our region and to respond to needs as they emerge. I am proud of the community of our people. We Are ESD 113 has never been more real or more important.
While we may not know the set of the tide (State Budget), or the direction or strength of the wind (COVID-19), we have the right crew around us. Our best days are still ahead, and when we look back on this whole experience, we will be able to say with certainty that we are better for this journey.
Thank you for sailing with me, I know it has not always been smooth, but we were not promised that it would be.
Well, I am starting to mark time based on weeks rather than days, so this is week 12 of COVID-19 updates. Hard to believe a quarter of a year has passed already. Time flies…I’m not exactly sure the rest of that saying really applies. We are certainly learning new things, working in new ways and preparing for new adventures.
In this update I want to share memories of Bill Williams, think about face coverings, explore our snapshot survey, and conclude with some musings on compassion and empathy…in a few paragraphs at least.
Remembering Bill Williams
One of our board members recently passed away. I cannot claim to know Bill, I mostly knew of him. I can say he was kind, charming, gentle, learned, and very connected. I will remember Bill for his gentle wisdom and good humor. In terms of accomplishments, Bill was an Attorney General, argued a case before the US Supreme Court, was a long-serving board member for North Thurston School District, served as a regional leader for the Washington Association of School Directors, was a leader in the Parent Teacher Association, and served on countless educational and community advisory boards and commissions. On our board Bill represented a large portion of the North Thurston school district. He was active, prepared and engaged. Bill also pressed us to think about issues of equity. During one of his first board meetings he challenged us to recruit board members who better represent our communities. In a strange twist of fate, his position will be an early opportunity for us to make this happen.
I have owned 60’s era Ford Mustangs since I was 16. My first mustangs had the dealer installed, optional seatbelts. It is hard to believe there was a time a seatbelt was optional in a car. In Washington it is illegal to drive or ride without seatbelts. You also cannot ride a motorcycle without a helmet. These laws protect us from the choices we make, and only we benefit if we comply. We’ve all seen the signs, ‘Seatbelts Save Lives’. It is true, and the lives we save are ours.
The Governor is now asking us to adopt a new form of seatbelt, not for our safety, but for the health of others. As a country we do not respond well to mandates or requirements. Independence seems to be in our DNA. But the science is clear, if we all wear face coverings in public, we will dramatically reduce the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings may protect the wearer from COVID-19, but more importantly they do wonders for protecting others. Our reopening plan requires staff to wear face coverings whenever they are unable to maintain 6 feet of physical distancing, or while in public spaces. Please help slow COVID-19, and serve as a model for others so they can help save lives by wearing face coverings.
Thank you for continuing to participate in our weekly Snapshot Surveys. I encourage you to take a look at our trends and results from last week. You will notice that we seem to have turned a corner, with the majority of respondents indicating they feel they are ‘On top of things’ now. That is great news! We also asked about team meetings and feeling connected. When we asked if your team meetings were meeting your needs, 95% of staff said they were…WOW! I feel like it is one of those ‘drop the mic’ moments for our leaders and communications teams. Way to go!
We have focused on creating strong systems of communication and connection. These weekly updates are just a tip of a much larger approach. We have created new virtual networks, asked leaders to increase the frequency of meetings and expanded our use of Workplace as a social messaging tool. It is good to see all the hard work by our leaders is paying off.
Reflections on Investments
I was listening to a talk about the power of compound interest last week. The speaker was drawing an analogy between retirement planning and the way we live our lives. You all know this, but if you want to plan for a good retirement, you need to start investing early. Small monthly payments into Social Security and the Department of Retirement Systems produce little return in the first decades of work. But, after 20 or 30 years (or more) of deposits, the results can be amazing. Small sacrifices over time – big return in the end.
The way we contribute to people around us and how we show up each day is much the same. Every day we are allowed to choose our response to life’s circumstances. How we feel and how we practice self-care influences the way we choose to engage with people. Our choices become our behaviors, our behaviors become our habits and our habits eventually become our character. We have the choice of being present or absent, being kind or short-fused, responding with grace or criticism. Choosing to give small gifts of kindness, demonstrating grace, and sharing a bit of good humor are like monthly deposits in a retirement plan. How we are, slowly becomes who we are.
I am writing this because I notice as the days of COVID isolation have become weeks, I’ve grown tired, less present, more withdrawn. Physical isolation has started to become social isolation. My emails are direct and to the point. My Zoom sessions are all business. My phone calls are quick and focused. In a world where I connect almost exclusively by technology, I am finding the person I want to be, the impression of my character that I want to leave, is not measuring up. I need to start more messages with a greeting. I need to ask how people are doing. I need to share a little of myself, and I need to say please and thank you more. Small drops in a bucket eventually fill it to overflowing.
My encouragement to you all is to take care of yourselves, get rest, eat well, move a bit more. Consider reading some of your last emails and see if you would want to stay in touch with that person. Work to make sure that just because we have to be physically distant, does not mean we have to be socially distant. Keep investing in the long-term with the people around you.
It is hard to believe it is three months since my first email sharing the status of COVID and the possible impact to the ESD. Just today I was on ourweareesd113 website and noticed the image in the header. Was that really just nine months ago? It feels like with so much change it should be years, not months.
Today I want to share a bit about our summer plans, think with you about the months ahead, summarize our most recent Snapshot survey, and leave you with a few random thoughts.
It feels official, summer is here. For staff who are nearing the end of their annual calendar, thank you for your service this past year. I hope you find time to rest, reflect and recover. For staff who work for the full year, I encourage you to take annual leave to do the same. We are encouraging staff to work with their supervisors to explore working alternative schedules or, at the very least, to schedule time off. Speaking of…the ESD is closed July 3rd and 6th,so please enjoy a long weekend (if possible). Find space for a vacation. I know, travel and COVID-19, not a good mix, but research indicates taking time off improves performance and increases productivity.
The Months Ahead
I could save you some reading time and just say, “I don’t know.” But, I’ll go on from there. Regardless of the phase, we will be required to continue physical distancing. The arguments will rage on about how much distance (3 feet? 5 feet? 6 feet?) and if face coverings are required or optional. The hard truth is COVID-19 will impact our lives for many more months. Until we have a vaccine, much of what we are experiencing today will continue, the group sizes will simply become larger. For us, this means we will follow our reopening plan, and continue to live in Zoomtopolis for most of our meetings. The growing body of knowledge and the spread of the disease will guide our next steps.
Thank you for continuing to participate in our weekly Snapshots. This past week was survey number 11. We plan to continue weekly surveys through June and then every other week in July, with monthly check-ins starting in August. Last week, for the first time, feeling “On top of things” was a more popular response than feeling “A bit stressed.” I am pleased to see we are finding balance in changed working conditions.
We also asked how you saw your role in relation to confronting racism. The vast majority of respondents described their role to be “building awareness,” followed by “speaking up.” Our newly adopted 4th goal, “eradicate racism,” speaks to two dimensions in service to dismantling racism in our community. First, we actively confront racism, and second we work to understand our own internal biases (often unconscious). I am pleased to see both dimensions of our goal in our survey responses.
Please keep telling us how you are doing and give us your thoughts in this week’s survey. We are asking how well communication is flowing and what we can do to improve.
“Are we there yet?” is a question most parents have heard on long trips. I remember asking that question from the back of my parents’ Malibu station wagon, as we drove through eastern Washington’s dust and heat. I can still feel the sticky seats, and slight nausea caused by looking out the back window as rivulets of dust poured down the windows. My dad’s answer was always the same, “we’ll get there when we get there.” Tired, uncomfortable, cramped, and wishing I was home reading a good book, I’d try to escape by dreaming of the lake, or cabin, or campground that was our destination.
Tomorrow is June 19th. Juneteenth is a time to recognize a moment when forces of freedom were strong enough to proclaim slavery had ended in America. In 1865, General Gordon Granger landed on Galveston, Texas, and proclaimed that all slaves were free (two years after the Emancipation proclamation). Since then, the celebration has slowly grown, and is now officially recognized by 48 states (yes, Washington is one of them).
“Freedom” is a word deeply ingrained in the American psyche. We have a shared cultural belief that we are a people who live free from tyranny, and model freedom to the world. In 1944, President Roosevelt said we fought for four freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. He saw freedom, like many of us, as something that relates to forces external to us, people, or institutions that strive to take our freedoms.
Freedom can also be related to our inner selves. Many need freedom from struggles with addictions or depression. Others want to find freedom from their self-doubts or fears. We all need to free ourselves from the implicit biases we carry. These subtle and unquestioned views can cause us to make decisions about people based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, language, and countless other ways. Purposefully learning about our biases, and working to confront them, is one way we can grow toward our goal of eradicating racism.
Juneteenth is a day I will pause and reflect on both types of freedoms, and ask how I can actively work to confront both my internal biases and support others on the road with me. I am going to take time this Friday to journal about where I see myself, but also where I see the world around me and ask “Are we there yet?” I hope the answer is not, “We will get there when we get there.” I want the answer to be, “we are almost there, and it looks amazing.”
I am writing to share some updates related to COVID-19 and reopening schools, to review one element of our own reopening plan, and to explore our weekly Snapshot results. And, of course, I’ll close with a few random thoughts.
Today OSPI released their guidance related to reopening schools in the fall. The hope/wish/dream is for schools to open in a face-to-face mode. Our region’s districts have many plans to prepare to ensure schools remain safe places for learning while we wait for a vaccine. Stopping (or at least controlling) the spread of COVID-19 is one of the key elements of every school district plan. Screenings, proper handwashing, physical distancing, and face coverings will be part of everyday life for some time. Rather than a statewide closure, we will see local decisions regarding opening schools and moves in and out of distance, hybrid, and face-to-face learning based on local health data. I bet even students are excited for school to restart. I know their families will be glad for the return to school.
Face Coverings at Work
I want to clear up confusion about face coverings at work during Phase 2. Our plans align with the Governor’s guidance for professional offices.
When are ESD staff NOT REQUIRED to wear face coverings in Phase 2?
If an individual is:
• Working alone, either in an office or a common workspace.
• Working with other people in a large workspace, where 6’ physical distancing can be maintained continuously.
When are ESD staff REQUIRED to wear face coverings in Phase 2?
If an individual is:
• Working with other people, where 6’ physical distancing cannot be maintained continuously.
• Working with other people in a shared office or confined space for more than 10 minutes in an hour.
• In the restroom and another individual is also present.
• Sanitizing areas suspected of COVID-19 exposure.
Individuals may choose to wear a face covering at any time.
If you have further questions regarding face coverings, please read this resource provided by the Department of Labor and Industries.
Weekly Snapshot Results
We have been asking how you are doing for 10 weeks now. Trends in your responses continue to indicate increased comfort and a sense of routine among many staff members. This past week topics related to racism in the news and concern for society at large contributed to more responses of “feeling a bit stressed.” In our concluding question, we asked about how comfortable you felt talking about race. The overwhelming majority of responses (over 80%) indicated some degree of comfort in talking about race.
This past week our Board of Directors adopted four goals for Capital Region ESD 113. They have been working on them as part of our strategic plan since August. Our revised goals and one new goal are:
• Close Gaps: We respond to systemic disparities that produce persistent and predictable imbalances in student opportunities.
• Grow People: We recognize potential and support professional development and learning.
• Influence Change: We advocate for students, families, and districts.
• Eradicate Racism: We confront inequity based on race, and recognize and address our own biases.
In this week’s survey we are asking you to share how you see your role in relation to our new fourth goal. Specifically, we want you to share how you see your role confronting inequity based on race.
Final Thoughts: The power of a word
English, like other languages, has multiple meanings for many words. Squash can mean something your mom made you eat (with lots of brown sugar), or a strange game like tennis, which started in England (in their prisons of all places) or destroying something. Meanings of words and their power to influence our lives are based on their context. I wouldn’t know which squash you might be talking about without some clue to help me.
A word like race also has meanings, but if we just focus on the differences in our skin colors, we sort of know what is being talked about. When we explore the idea further, what seems so clear (ironically, on the surface) begins to get very confused. Raised in a society that for hundreds of years defined race based on skin, it is hard to believe the concept of race is not “real,” but socially constructed. Before colonization by western European countries, race meant language groups, or nationalities, or even roles or social classes. Skin color only became connected with race when one, dominant group of people needed others to do the work.
Eradicate racism, that is our fourth goal as an ESD. It starts inside each of us. We see differences in skin, and we assume differences that go much deeper. We have been conditioned to see the world in ways that cause us to miss reality. It hurts us all to be confined by our unquestioned views of the world. Small and large lies have entered our minds and hearts and distorted our views of reality.
A word like racism has power. It can cause us to close down and fail to see truth. We want to be better, which is a good thing. But wanting is not enough, we need to examine ourselves and our lives and ask hard questions. When I open my eyes and look inside, I see that I have a long way to go on my journey toward understanding. I have missed really seeing that my skin, and gender, and language and countless other factors have given me advantages that I never questioned. I have benefited from them. That word is privilege.
We started this fall with a sentence stem at our all-staff event. We wrote a poem, “In my one beat…” I would like to change my answer.
I hope you have had a good week. The days seem to be rushing by so very quickly. I find it hard to believe it is June already. Summer is almost here.
Today I want to share some news from our Snapshot survey, provide a bit more detail regarding our agency’s single-most talked about COVID-19 topic, think with you about how we can grow in our understanding of issues of racial equity, and let a few thoughts bubble out of my head onto this email.
So, here we go…
For the past 9 weeks, we have asked you how you were feeling through our Snapshot surveys. Each week, more than 100 staff respond, telling us if they are “On Top of Things,” “A Bit Stressed,” “Treading Water,” or “Drowning.” The most common response has been “A Bit Stressed,” but “On Top of Things” has been gaining steadily. This past week, for the first time, these two options tied. Clearly, many are adjusting to a new way of working and being. I hope the trend continues, and “On Top of Things” pulls ahead. Your wellness and how you are all holding up has been near the front of my mind almost constantly. It feels good to know the tide has turned, and a better sense of wellness has settled in. If this is not the case for you, is there something the ESD can do to help?
Last week, we also asked what you hoped would continue as we transition toward less restrictive work and social lives. Take a look at the summary report. Continued telecommuting was the most popular response. We will form a policy and guidance team on the topic of telecommuting and look to revise our practices and protocols. Second most popular was the hope that our expanded sense of community and intentional communication remains. Improved communication has been a goal of the ESD for a number of years, and I know we want to continue to improve how we listen, learn, and share together.
In response to current racial tension and demonstrations across the country, this week’s Snapshot explores your thinking related to issues of race equity. We want to know how to support you as we individually and collectively grow in our understanding of the history of race in America and the way racism influences our daily lives.
Drumroll please…face coverings. Face coverings will be a part of our lives for a while, even at work. They will be required:
• If it is not possible to maintain physical distancing of at least 6 feet (the distance may change, depending on federal and state guidance)
• If working in a confined area with inadequate air exchanges (for example, the Satsop Room here at the ESD). This will include any restroom that is not single-use.
Check our Return-to-Work Plan for the most current guidance. We will update this plan if information changes.
For the past several years, our ESD has had three agency goals. This year, our Board of Directors will be taking action to refine these goals and add a fourth:
1. Close Gaps: We respond to systemic disparities that produce persistent and predictable gaps in student opportunities.
2. Grow People: We recognize potential and support professional growth and learning.
3. Influence Change: We advocate for the needs of students, families, and districts.
4. Eradicate Racism: We confront inequity based on race and actively seek to understand our own biases.
The Board has been actively exploring these goals since September 2019. It feels timely and appropriate that they adopt them during our June 10, 2020, meeting. Closing gaps, growing people, and influencing change are not new topics for us. Eradicating racism is the work of a lifetime. To understand the history of race in America and how both implicit and explicit biases impact our lives is a journey of personal discovery. Actively seeking to be an anti-racist organization, where we demonstrate through our actions and outcomes that race does not influence our work, will require significant change.
I invite you to view, read, and discuss any of the following to help you understand this topic more:
• The 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge provides a structure for considering issues of race and reflecting on what you learn.
• This Tedx talk invites us to become more comfortable talking about race.
• The EmbraceRace website has a list of 31 children’s books that would support family discussions related to race.
• The danger of a single story is presented in this powerful Ted talk.
• There are many others, but this video about uncomfortable conversations with a black man is especially powerful.
Kintsugi is a captivating Japanese artform where a broken piece of pottery is restored using gold dust and lacquer to bind the pieces together. The repaired cup, bowl, or vase is unbelievably beautiful. Kintsugi is born out of a worldview that values the history and story of an object. Rather than throwing something that is cracked and broken away, a master craftsman puts the pieces back together. While the final product retains the original form, the scars of brokenness enhance its value. In fact, the scars are what produce beauty from something that would otherwise be ordinary.
I recognize that trauma in our lives produces brokenness. Wounds are the result of living in a world where pain and suffering are just as present as laughter and love. Scars can either be reminders of past wounds, or they can be part of the beautiful story that is our life. I see evidence of trauma all around me. Hurt is inflicted on a person because of the color of their skin. Pain is given because of gender or sexual orientation. We all carry, and often try to hide, scars that are part of our story. Kintsugi can teach us that the scars can also be beautiful. That pain need not be the end of the story, but just part of what made us who we are.
As we all work through the trauma of changed lives and displaced connections, I hope you find a moment to think about the golden lines that run through your story, and that you can celebrate the wonder that is you. Vulnerability is telling your story to good people who you can trust. Beauty is seeing yourself as a work of art that is unique and wonderful and, while broken at times, made more incredible every day. Wear your scars with pride, they don’t define you, they add gold to the life you chose to live.
Well, another week, another…I don’t know, seven days? Next week we turn the page to June. April showers brought May flowers, and June may bring opportunities for life outside the home…work, play…haircuts. Good things on the horizon.
Today I want to share a bit more about our plans for responding to changes in the State’s Phases of COVID-19 responses. I also will summarize what we heard through our weekly Snapshot, and provide a resource to help should you become the victim of Unemployment Insurance fraud.
Moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2
I am hopeful that by now you have met with your supervisors to talk about our Return to Work Plan. The outline from the ESD needs to be colored in by your supervisors to help you better understand the impact on you as we transition to Phase 2. I have asked our leaders to work with their staff to clarify work expectations for Phase 2 by the end of next week. Most will have already had this conversation, but please reach out if you are unclear about what Phase 2 looks like.
As you know, we expect most staff to remain in a telecommuting mode of work during Phase 2. If you are anything like me, you are feeling the need for a change in scenery. It will be possible to return to the office or your work area on a limited basis, but please talk to your supervisors to ensure we are managing facility use safely, and ensuring safe health practices while at work.
My greatest concern during this time of transition (after everyone’s health and wellness of course) is civility. Specifically civil resolution to how we individually respond to the threat of COVID-19. After getting yelled at (literally) for holding the door for someone while they were getting takeout (and in line to buy groceries, and leaving a store through the ‘in door’…), I find fear has replaced kindness.
Which brings me to the subject of face coverings. We are not going to require them of staff in all circumstances (please see our guidance for more details). Some will be offended by their colleagues not wearing a face covering. I imagine others might feel ‘healthier than thou’ about those who are wearing face coverings. What I think is most important is how we resolve our differences in perspectives and communicate our personal concerns. My encouragement is to have the conversation. Share your perspective with the people who work near and around you, and seek first to understand, rather than to be understood.
This past week we asked how you were feeling, and what concerns you had about returning to work. To view the results of the 132 responses we received, please follow this link. In general, 41% of staff said they felt comfortable returning to work, with an additional 24% who didn’t feel strongly either way. The greatest concerns about returning to work were, not surprisingly, exposure to the virus and peers not following safe health practices. As you were thinking about returning to work, many said they were excited to be about to see colleagues again and to have the opportunity to collaborate with them.
To participate in this next week’s Snapshot, please click here. We want to hear from you and learn how we can take the best of this time and apply it to our future work.
With all we have to contend with, we have one more ‘virus’ to worry about. Some folks thought Stay Home, Stay Healthy, meant, Stay Home, and Take Money From Other People. Sadly, with increases in unemployment claims, our state has also been the target of fraud. Some of our currently employed staff have received mail from the Employment Security Department (The other ESD) indicating their unemployment claim was in process. Others created a Secure Access Washington account (SAW) to prevent fraud and found they already had an account, with an email address that was not theirs. Both are indications of unemployment fraud (or at least the attempt at fraud).
So, what can you do? If you are the victim of fraud, be sure to complete a fraud notification report on the Employment Security Website.
First Choice Health EAP offers an Identity Theft Protection Program to all covered members, including a free consultation and ID Threat Score, and discounted monitoring services. Additional COVID-19 information and materials are available on their website, www.firstchoiceEAP.com. They also have some videos to help makes sense of how to protect yourself from fraud.
You certainly couldn’t tell by looking at me, but I used to be a long-distance runner. I loved being in ‘the zone’ and just running for miles. When I focused on my pain, or how I was feeling, I always went slower. When I focused on the runners ahead of me, I usually kept up, and when I focused on a goal I set for myself, I was usually faster than the race before.
The long and winding road we are on right now reminds me of those experiences. If I focus on isolation and feelings of loss, I slow down. Work and life are different than they were, that is part of the way things are. Holding on to what was, robs me of the best of right now, and prevents me from entering into the moments each day brings. Looking around at what others are doing might help me a bit, but it keeps me from seeing beyond now. What pulls me forward is the mental discipline of hope. The focus on goals that are in my preferred future. The goals I picture with clarity, strengthen me in the hard times and motivate me when I am down.
Hopeful people are those who believe the future can be better than today. They believe they have the capacity to move toward that future, and they have plans to make their future a reality. Hope is not an emotion. I was reminded of this truth again this week, that hope is a way of thinking. Hope is a mental discipline. Like running in the zone, a hope-filled life sustains me through the pains of the moment and lifts me up when I stumble.
I trust you are able to find hope this week. That the goals of your life include images of better days, and that the best moments of today will pale in comparison to the brightness of your tomorrow.
Strangely, I find myself with a moment between Zoom meetings (a technology created by the devil to torture people and drive authentic human connections from our lives). So, working on my update for the week right now, while listening to some of my favorite music (practicing one of the things I mentioned in an email from a couple of weeks ago). I remain in awe of the resilience you have demonstrated these past 10 weeks. WeAreESD113 has never been truer, and more necessary to get us to the other side than right now.
Crystal Ball Gazing
I sure wish I had the power to see the future, but then maybe just living in the moment is a better choice…What seems clear is that we are starting to move toward Phase 2 of re-opening, maybe as early as June 1? What I feel is certain is that the path forward will be less about common steps toward Phase 4, but more like a country line dance, with a few boots scooting and bogeying. It would be nice if we moved in a nice slow waltz toward Phase 4 and stayed there, but I think the most probable scenario is that we will move both backward and forward across the phases, based on how COVID-19 cases grow or decline. Sorry, the only certainty right now seems to be uncertainty.
Guidance for the Phases Ahead
With the help of an amazing group of leaders within the ESD, we have created a Return-to-Work Plan based on the four phases outlined by Governor Inslee. My hope is that the plan helps clarify our expectations for staff over the coming months. I will ask our program leaders to review the framework with you next week. Please share any questions or concerns with your supervisor so they can collect them and share with our leadership team. We will continue to modify the plan’s details as new guidance emerges, but I feel we are about as close to final form as we can come.
Last week was our 7th week of checking on staff feelings and sense of well-being. Thank you to the 111 staff who completed last week’s snapshot survey. Your responses indicate the general stress level is improving, but I suspect it might be we are just getting used to the background noise of changed working circumstances. It is interesting to see that in week 1 22% of staff felt they were on top of things and this past week the responses soared to 41%. Feeling a bit stressed has declined from 58% in week 1 to 44% this past week. Sadly, we had four staff who indicated they felt they were “drowning” last week. We have followed up with those who shared their contact information and want to do all we can to help anyone who needs a lifeline. Please, if you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to ask for help.
We asked an open-ended question about what you wanted us to explore in upcoming surveys. A different approach, right? The single largest response was, “I can’t think of anything right now.” So, we are on to the second most common question, “What will it look like when we return to work?”
This Week’s Survey
Please take some time to complete our newest survey regarding returning to work. This is a slightly longer survey than in previous weeks, asking you to help us better understand your concerns and needs. When I tried the survey, it took me about 3 minutes to complete (but I am slow at deciding things).
One of my favorite movies is Marvel’s Captain America: The First Avenger. Steve Rogers is a skinny guy with a ton of grit. He just doesn’t seem to have what it takes to join the war (or know how to back down from a fight, or how to relate with girls, or how to dance…but again, I digress). In one scene, Steve is in a back-alley fight, and he is getting pounded. Every time he gets knocked down, he gets back up and says, “I can do this all day.” Grit…resilience…strength in adversity.
I aspire to be that guy. Not the super-buff version of Captain America, but the inner person who he really is. Unable to back down from a fight, always choosing to do the right thing, even when it is hard, getting back up every time I am knocked down, and saying, “I can do this all day.”
What does it take to build resilience? It turns out there are five science-backed strategies to build resilience:
1. Change the narrative
2. Face your fears
3. Practice self-compassion
5. Cultivate forgiveness
When we experience loss, we can either rehash the experience over and over in our heads, revisiting the pain and hurt, or we can change the narrative. A simple practice that helps is to engage in free writing for 20 minutes. Just find some time, alone and without distractions, and write for yourself about an event or experience that is bothering you. Studies show that doing this for four days can have a significant positive effect that can be measured months later.
That brings me to my real point. We are living in an era of constant-on information. We have all the news and information we need, and more than we can handle on the phone in our pockets. Before the telegraph, any news came from local sources, like, “The farmer’s barn is on fire!” News was something you would act on right away. “Did you hear, the farmer’s barn is on fire. Let’s go help out.”
After the telegraph, news started coming in from far away, and there was nothing that could be done about it. Neil Postmen wrote about this in, “Amusing ourselves to death.” New information seldom leads to action. He calls this the ‘Information-action ratio’. We use information for entertainment but have no expectation to act. This has created a psychological state of hearing information (most of it bad), even being moved by it, but seldom doing anything in response. We have been conditioned by the flood of information to hear but not act.
I want to change this in my life. I am working to move from information-rich and action-poor to putting into practice the things I find are significant to me. To become a person who “can do this all day” takes practice. It requires that I act on what I hear and by doing that regularly, build the strength of my character through training and persistence. It isn’t a serum by Dr. Erskine and Vita Rays by Howard Stark that made Captain America (Yep, showing my inner geek). He already was that guy on the inside. One day, I hope to be that guy too.
Month of May
We will remain in our current work-status for the remainder of this month. Telecommuting for those who can, and home-based work assignments for most everyone. Please work with your supervisor to continue communicating about expectations for your roles and goals for the coming weeks. It is also a good time to reflect on this past year and to prepare for your end-of-year PDPs. This year certainly didn’t go as you thought just a few months ago. May and June are great times to reflect on the past year and to plan for the next.
Preparing for Phase 2
The Governor recently released guidance regarding professional workplaces during Phase 2. Our Facilities Opening Group’s recommendations fall in line with the Governor’s directions.
Key points during Phase 2:
- Our COVID-19 exposure control, mitigation, and recovery plan will be posted at all ESD 113 facilities.
- Most employees will remain in telecommuting status.
- Any staff reporting to work will be asked to self-screen for COVID-19 risk prior to coming to the workplace.
- Patrons will be screened by phone or in person prior to receiving services.
- We will implement access logs for staff and guests in all our facilities.
- Face coverings will be required (per Governor Directive) in all common areas, or spaces where social distancing is not easily maintained. Face coverings are expected when working in shared spaces like offices and small conference rooms.
- Individuals working alone in an office are not required to wear a face covering.
- Fingerprinting and EdJobsNW will begin operations, with strict requirements for staff and patrons regarding social distancing and use of personal protective equipment.
- Patrons will only be allowed in reception areas, with the exception of counseling or healthcare services.
- Staff and patrons in restrooms, breakrooms, copy rooms and similar spaces must maintain 6 feet of separation.
- Office furniture in common areas will be removed, or spaced at least 6 feet apart.
- Employees are encouraged to wash their hands regularly, before and after all client interactions, before and after going to the bathroom, before and after eating and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
Thank you to the over 115 staff who completed last week’s Snapshot Survey. The vast majority of staff (85%) were feeling either on top of things, or a bit stressed this past week. If you happen to feel like you are drowning, I encourage you to reach out and ask for help. Our Employee Assistance Program (800-777-4114) is available 24/7 to offer free and confidential services. Your sense of wellness and safety is very important, so please let us know if you need support.
Please take a moment to check out a summary of your responses. Your biggest concerns regarding future opening of our facilities were related to general health and safety. Specifically, staff were worried about maintaining social distancing and exposure to COVID-19 infected children, students, and patrons.
This week’s survey continues to ask for your sense of well-being, but now you get to turn the tables and suggest questions for us.
Have you seen the article by Scott Berinato, entitled "That Discomfort You Are Feeling is Grief"? Right now, we are grieving the loss of normalcy, the grief of anticipating the unknown, and the grief of loss of security. It is important to name what we are experiencing. Focusing only on the positive minimizes the truth of what we are feeling. In truth, we are grieving. We all go through the process of grieving at different paces and in different ways, so give yourself and others grace.
Start by naming what you are feeling and allowing yourself to feel. When you put a name on feelings, they can move through you. When you try to suppress them, or minimize them, you end up holding on to them. Remind yourself that this is only temporary. You will get to the other side. Your progress through grief will come in recognized stages, just not always in order (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance). Learning to live with what we have lost is a process. Give yourself permission to take time to walk the path ahead.
Thank you to everyone who participated in last week’s Snapshot Survey. We continue to read everything you write, and explore how you are telling us you are feeling. Check out a summary of last week’s results.
Well, it finally arrived, and now we know more about the road ahead. Our state will slowly relax social isolation requirements in 4 phases. Each phase will last at least 3 weeks. The earliest we would see some "return to normal" would be the latter part of July, so we are in this for the long haul.
What this means to us
We will continue to operate nearly in full telecommuting status through May 31. This means continuing as we have been working for the remainder of the month. Our facilities opening group will present recommendations to the Executive Team next week, and the next update to staff will provide guidance on our plans for gradual facilities opening based on each of the four phases outlined by the Governor.
All employees able to work remotely will be allowed to continue doing so. Supervisors will work with staff to provide maximum flexibility and creativity to enable widespread and extended remote work through tele-commuting.
Any accessing of ESD facilities over the affected time to drop off or retrieve work or belongings should be arranged in advance through the employee’s supervisor.
- Employees who are able to accomplish work remotely, as determined by the employee’s supervisor, are expected to do so through May 31 or for as long as they have work to complete while in tele-commute status.
- Employees are expected to email or contact their supervisor regularly to discuss the projects they will be working on that day, the work schedule they intend to follow, and to provide a brief summary of progress achieved.
- Employees are expected to be readily accessible via phone, email, and/or Zoom during regular business hours.
Any employee who has exhausted work should contact his or her supervisor for further direction. Supervisors will be responsible for determining/approving whether work exists for an employee to remain in tele-commute status.
- Should work be exhausted, as determined by employees’ supervisors, employees can access emergency leave (deducted from sick leave), vacation leave (if applicable), or leave without pay.
- All out-of-region and out-of-state travel is suspended unless the travel is specifically required by a grant or contract and approved by the overseeing Assistant Superintendent.
- Travel for AESD/OSPI initiative teams and leadership meetings is suspended through at lease December 31, 2020. Any exceptions must be approved in advance by the appropriate AESD Executive Sponsor. The travel prohibition will be reviewed in late fall for possible modification after January 1, 2021.
- All in-person meetings capable of being rescheduled to Zoom must be held remotely.
- Any required in-person meetings cannot exceed 5 participants, and social distancing must be practiced.
- Required in-person meetings must be approved in advance by the overseeing Assistant Superintendent.
Outside Facility Use
- All outside facility use is canceled through May 31.
We continue to experience social and work changes none would have imagined just a few months ago. Please take time to take care of yourself…go for walks, contact friends and family, read a good book, putter in the yard or kitchen, binge-watch TV (just a little). It is okay to take a break and unplug. Give yourself permission to find the space to reflect on the best things in your life, and whisper 3 things for which you feel gratitude before you go to sleep. If you pause, and reflect, you will probably have a hard time stopping at 3.
The Stay Home, Stay Healthy order will probably be extended for a few more weeks. Regardless of the specifics of the direction, unless all restrictions are lifted, we will remain in a nearly all telecommuting status. Please check with your supervisor regarding work assignments and goals for weeks ahead.
Plans for Re-opening
Our Facilities Re-opening Group has met twice to review our priority concerns and to develop plans for phased approaches to facilities access. It will take at least one more meeting of the full group, and some review by our leadership teams to finalize our plans. We are working to:
- Ensure staff safety.
- Promote child and student wellness.
- Provide appropriate public access to our facilities.
- Prepare for group gatherings.
Watch for specific guidance about each of these topics in future updates.
Thank you for your feedback and responses to our employee Snapshot survey. Your engagement in our surveys helps us gauge your overall wellness, and provides input on specific focus areas each week. This past week we had 88 responses. Over half of the responses indicated employees are feeling "a bit stressed." While many indicated they are settling in to new routines, most feel a sense of isolation and missing real connections. We also asked about your perceptions of workload. Most respondents (53%) felt work was certainly different, but about the same level of demands on their time and energy. About 1/3 felt their workload was higher than before the building closures. The greatest concern was a sense of "endless Zoom meetings."
Our next snapshot survey will focus on expressing gratitude for the support and assistance of members of our ESD family. We will launch a Talk About Gratitude (TAG) campaign to help share stories of success and encouragement.
Drop-in with Dana
Our superintendent will host another open office event this Friday at 12 pm. Feel free to "drop-in" via Zoom and chat with other members of the ESD, ask questions, and catch up on things across the ESD.
Join via Zoom: Session ID 360 464 6701, or by phone: Dial 669 900 6833, Session ID 360 464 6701.
"We are not in the same boat, but we are in the same storm." While weathering this storm, we are in very different boats. Take time to support each other. A phone call, card, or email might be just what somebody near you needs as a lifeline.
We are into week 5 of COVID-19 closures and schedule changes. When we started down this road (a long and winding one) it seemed like it would be a few weeks. COVID-19 has profoundly impacted more than how we work, it has changed the way we interact.
Administrative Professionals Day!
Today is a day to celebrate those amazing members of our team who keep everything moving. Our administrative support staff are the heart of our work. They schedule meetings, manage logistics, make connections, and serve as the face of most of the ESD’s work. We do not say it enough, but please hear it, “Thank You!” Not just today, but every day, we appreciate all you do to keep us together.
We are awaiting the Governor’s next set of directives. Our facilities re-opening team meets Thursday, April 23, to review our plans. We are focused on ensuring staff and client safety. It will be some time until we return to working as we did before business and school closures. We will be ready as the Governor lifts restrictions on work and gatherings.
The governor’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order is currently set to end on May 4th. It may be extended, with limited business openings over the coming weeks. Unwinding from statewide closure will be more like turning a dial than flipping a switch.
We had 107 responses to last week’s Snapshot. Agency leadership reviews your responses every Monday. It is very helpful to track how staff are feeling and to learn from you about what is working and what we can do to provide more help. Based on last week’s responses, the majority of people feel they are coping well with the changes in work. It seems technology is not necessarily a barrier, but please know our internal IT team is here to help. As nearly all staff are working from home, we emailed you information about cellphone company policies during COVID-19.
This week’s Snapshot asks about changes in roles and how you are managing time. Please take 1–2 minutes before Friday at 4:30 pm to fill it out and help us understand how we can offer you support.
Opportunities to Connect
Starting this week, and lasting at least through the end of May, our superintendent will host a weekly virtual open office via Zoom. Drop in to see him from 12 PM to 1PM on Friday.
Go to Zoom.Us (or use the Zoom app on your mobile device) and enter 360 464 6701 as the Zoom Session ID. The time will be yours to connect with anyone who drops in, and to ask questions.
Current Planning: Budget
We continue to review all our programs to test them for fiscal uncertainty, both now and into next year. One major feature of ESD funding is that programs live within their means. This structure allows us to be very nimble in response to new opportunities, but challenges us when we have fiscal uncertainty. We continue to dig into our uncertainties and explore what our future looks like. The next State budget will not be created for almost a year, but already we are tracking the impact of loss in sales taxes and shrinking State revenues. In the short-term, we are focused on living within our means, and in the long-term we are planning on weathering some reduced staff support in many areas. Our next major milestone will be the release of the State revenue forecast in mid-June.
Current Planning: Staffing
Staff have responded to the opportunities of changed work assignments. New projects, old projects, or changed services, many are finding ways to challenge themselves and provide care to children, students, families and staff. We are currently collecting data on staff work plans, so we can help continue to find meaningful tasks. With good news from many of our major funders, we are able to continue to provide work plans to the vast majority of staff. Check with your supervisor about weekly schedules and use of available leave balances.
Current Planning: Restarting Services
At some point, the Governor will lift his “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order. He may even end it ahead of the school closure directive. What that means is our direct services for children and youth (with some exceptions) will remain at a distance through June 19. Right now, we are exploring the safety/health needs of our staff and strategies to manage risk of exposure.
Staff and public access to our Tumwater facility will be restored in phases after the Governor’s order is lifted. Our first public-facing services to be restored will be fingerprinting and EdJobsNW. Just like the new protocols for going into your local stores, we will be devising ways to maintain social distancing and limiting exposure risks. Strategies we are exploring include scheduling appointments, limiting access to our lobby, hand washing/sanitizing stations, waiting line controls (think Costco check-out), and other approaches. We need to resume hiring and fingerprinting supports, but will only do so when we are certain we can manage risk to staff and patrons.
Snapshot Results (Employee Survey)
We had 75 responses to last week’s survey. Thank you for taking the time to let us know how you are doing and what can be done to support you more. The Executive Team poured over the responses and then shared them with the Leadership Team on Monday. When asked how they felt, 69 of the 75 felt either “On top of things,” or “A bit stressed.” When asked if the current level of supervisor or team contact was adequate to meet needs, 72 of 75 said yes. That is fantastic! It is clear that while we remain in a state of change, we are doing a good job of remaining connected. Topics that emerged as possible areas of further exploration and discussion were: 1) The challenges of technology, 2) General anxiety, 3) Work/life balance. Our next Snapshot will explore technology needs/issues more deeply. Please share your thoughts by 4:30 pm on Friday.
One staff member indicated last week that they felt overwhelmed and significantly stressed. That person is not alone. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of others. Remember, when you are on a plane, they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first. Self-care is your oxygen mask.
We have an Employee Assistance Program you can call for help. Or you can visit websites like Virus Anxiety to explore some suggestions for coping with stress. I have signed up for the free trial of Calm to learn and practice ways to keep myself emotionally healthy.
Our amazing student support team has also scheduled a free session for ESD staff to learn 5 tools to manage stress and more about resources they have collected to help with maintaining emotional well-being. Please register for their April 16 session if you are interested.
What is the FFCVRA?
FFCVRA is a federal act that provides leave benefits to employees who have been impacted by Coronavirus.
Is the ESD covered by this Act?
Yes, ESD 113 is covered by this Act.
Does this Act apply to me?
If there is work available to you; and you are unable to work due to one of the reasons listed under FAQ #4, you may be eligible for benefits under the Act. A telecommuting and/or home-based work plan meets the requirement of work available.
What are the listed reasons of the Act?
- You are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID- 19
- You have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19
- You are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are seeking a medical diagnosis
- You are caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or (2)
- You are caring for your child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons
- The U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services also has the authority to specify other substantially similar conditions qualifying for leave
What conditions do not qualify under the Act?
- The Washington State Stay Home, Stay Safe order
- You make a personal decision to self-quarantine or to not work
- You do not have work available to you
- You have been laid off or furloughed from your job
How much emergency paid sick leave may I be entitled to under this Act?
Full-time employees: up to 80 hours at your regular rate of pay. However, when caring for a family member (for reasons (4), (5), and (6) above), leave is paid at two-thirds your regular rate of pay.*
Part-time employees: the number of hours you work, on average, over a two-week period.*
*The law limits paid leave to $511 per day ($5,110 in total) where leave is taken for reasons (1), (2), or (3) above; and $200 per day ($2,000 in total) where leave is taken for reasons (4), (5), or (6) above.
If you qualify for leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave portion of this Act, you are entitled to take up to a total of 12 weeks of FMLA leave for a qualifying need related to a public health emergency. The qualifying reason is limited to reason (5) shown above. The first 10 days of this leave are unpaid unless you choose to use your accrued leave or your entitlement of emergency paid sick leave under this Act. The remaining 10 weeks are paid at two-thirds of your regular rate of pay for the number of hours you would otherwise be scheduled to work with a maximum of $200 per day ($10,000 in total).
May I take leave intermittently under the Act?
- The ESD has agreed to allow intermittent use of leave for all teleworkers
- Employees reporting to a worksite may only use leave intermittently for reason (5)
How do I apply for benefits under the Act?
If you believe your situation qualifies as one of the reasons listed above, please email Heidi Westfall or call her at 360-464-6856 to discuss. Be prepared to provide appropriate documentation in support of the reason for the leave.
Questions and answers are provided by the ESD on a non-binding basis to clarify the FFCVRA for our employees. They are based upon information and regulations in place on April 6, 2020. This law sunsets on December 31, 2020.
Governor: School Closure and Budget Veto
It is not news that the Governor has closed schools for traditional education until June 19. He also used his veto authority to trim the recently passed budget to help the state save now to cover lower revenue later. As a direct result of his proclamations of “Stay Home, Stay Healthy,” and extended school closures, we will continue to operate our facilities with extremely limited staffing. Our facilities will remain closed to the public until the directive to remain home is lifted. All staff who can work from home are expected to do so until the Governor lifts his order of closure of businesses, with the exception of designated support functions (like facilities, fiscal, and HR). We will explore further any additional guidance on social distancing that will undoubtedly be provided over the coming month.
Thankfully, few of our programs were part of the Governor veto. In fact, some new investments in ESD safety services survived when other state programs were reduced or eliminated. All in all, we have been very fortunate this spring.
Continued Employee Expectations
Employees who are able to accomplish work remotely, as determined by their direct supervisors, are expected to do so through May 4, or for as long as they have work to complete while in remote status. Employees working remotely are expected to be readily accessible via phone, email, and/or Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google (or other electronic platform) during regular business hours, or in alignment with their regular work schedule. Supervisors will be responsible for determining/approving whether work exists for an employee.
We will soon provide further guidance to help employees determine appropriate use of available leave, including leave authorized by Federal legislation (Families First Coronavirus Response Act). Work with your immediate supervisor to get answers to your questions about continued work and use of leave. Please also direct your questions about leave to our HR team.
Thank you to the nearly 130 staff who completed our weekly survey. Check out a summary of your responses. The executive team explored your feedback, and noticed that (in general) responses show staff are managing well during this time of change. The vast majority of staff felt there was little the ESD could do to help with any concerns they were feeling (worry about health, care for family, concern for children/students). Leaders were asked to continue focusing on communication, especially whole-group emails (like this) and face-to-face meetings (by Zoom). We shared the results with the leadership team on Monday, and have asked them to check with their teams to ensure staff feel connected and up-to-date with our plans.
We are launching this week’s Snapshot, with a focus on communication. Please take a couple minutes (probably much less than that) to provide your thoughts.
Programs and Services
Service delivery models to children, families, students, and staff continue to move toward distance-based approaches. In most cases, we are ready to provide dramatically changed support, consistent with our goals and partner expectations. In some instances, we are providing the exact same service, maybe even handling greater numbers of requests, just from home, rather than the at an ESD office. Very few of our programs are suspending their offerings during this time of school closure.
This crisis brings both challenges and opportunities. The challenges are obvious…we are working differently, serving remotely, and grappling with the implications of social distancing. The opportunities are endless…We have the chance to learn new skills. We can explore new ways of delivering care, and I hope continue to apply them when life “returns to normal.” We can think about how we connect and build community, and extend our contact to audiences we have not consistently reached. We get to do what we do best, see needs around us, and find creative ways to help meet them.
Thank you for remaining strong.
As you know, the Governor has extended his directive to remain home until May 4. This note is intended to help create some clarity with regard to what this means for our staff and programs in the near term.
Continue to practice self-care. Please find time to just pause and remain centered. Here are two strategies that may help:
Impact of Governor’s Order
We fully expected the "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order to be extended. For us, this means we will continue as we have for the past few weeks. Facilities will remain closed to the public, and staff should work with their supervisor if they need to be on site. The only personnel who are expected to be in our buildings are facilities staff and personnel who perform essential functions that cannot be conducted offsite (receiving and sorting mail, printing checks, accessing files, providing clinical counseling). Other staff will continue to work with their supervisors to develop weekly work plans.
Our Leadership Team will review all our programs, services, and contracts to determine any threats to ongoing funding. It is stressful not to know for certain that everything will remain the same. In preliminary assessments of over 170 programs, very few are at risk of loss of funding in the next few months. The Leadership Team will meet Monday to review our planning process and staff work assignments. We will be meeting in smaller groups over the next week (or so) to gain further details on revenues, expenses, expectations, and future plans. With an organization as diverse as the ESD, it is hard to provide more direct details. Your supervisor will have more to share about next steps by the middle of next week. For now, things remain the same as they have been in our "new normal."
It is a stressful and unusual time, but we live in a state that has managed the COVID-19 process well. We are seeing the curve flatten, and the spread is expected to peak next week. Compared to other states, we have the resources, supports, and interventions to meet the needs of our communities. We have the opportunity to work with and support amazing people. We are privileged because our work continues. We are always needed by our children, students and staff, and each other, AND we have the gift of continuing to work in service of equity within our region. Thank you for your questions and feedback. Thank you for being such amazing people.
It is a season of change and uncertainty, but also a time to develop our resilience and inner strength. Thank you for the gifts of yourselves to those around you.
As many of you are working from home, what you are worried about? What is on your mind? To help get a glimpse of your feelings and thoughts, we have created a Snapshot feedback tool. Please take 1–2 minutes by Friday afternoon to let us know how you are feeling and what we can do to help you. Your feedback is important, and your thoughts will help us shape our plans and communication strategies.
We will ask for similar feedback every week until life returns to some form of "normal." Each Monday, the Executive Team will review your thoughts and explore how we can best respond to your needs. We will also share what we learn from you with the Leadership Team at their weekly meeting. These weekly messages will also target topics you share, and hopefully help bring clarity about our plans.
- Safety: Ensure the continued health and wellness of our staff and the children and youth we serve.
- Support: Provide support services for children and youth, and serve as a resource for school districts to help them meet the needs of their communities.
- Engagement: Deliver educational enrichment to children and youth, and professional learning to educators.
- Employment: Maintain our high-quality workforce to remain prepared to meet current and future needs of our staff and those we serve.
What we are tracking
Near term, we are hoping to learn if the April 7 end of "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" will stick, or if the order will be extended. We expect to see this directive to be extended. We are also watching to see if school closures end on April 27, or if this order is extended. It is very likely that schools will not resume traditional operations this academic year. We are reviewing all our programs and services with these two assumptions in mind.
By Friday, the Governor will decide which recently passed legislation will be signed into law or vetoed. We are watching closely to determine how his decisions might influence our programs after June 30. It is possible that all new programs will be reduced or eliminated, but current support for State-funded programs will probably remain.
Finally, we are reviewing recent Federal Legislation to better understand implications for employee leave benefits. Our Fiscal and HR teams have attended hours of webinars and are working on guidance for staff to help navigate this complex and ever-changing world. We will share more information soon.
What does all this mean to me?
Next week will look a lot like the past two weeks. Program leaders will work with their staff to develop work plans. We anticipate staff will continue to work from home, with limited personnel coming in to ESD facilities. While it is difficult to remain in isolation, it is important that we stay healthy and contribute to the health of our family, friends, and neighbors by maintaining social distancing.
Every one of our more than 170 programs is different, and the needs of those we serve are incredibly diverse. We are relying on you to work collaboratively to create work that is meaningful and relevant to your program. We are grateful that our districts and various partners continue to support us as we work to meet their expectations.
It is hard to live in fear. Worry can take hold, and it is difficult to let it go. Breathe — slowly, intentionally, deliberately. And then pay attention to what you are thinking about. Are you worried about something you can control? Do you have anxiety about something beyond your control? Or, maybe you are grateful for what you have, and feel appreciation for the gifts of life.
Capture your thoughts, and feed the ones that bring you peace and contentment. Starve the thoughts that bring you distress and worry. If the news is giving you stress, unplug. Find something that nurtures you. Go for a walk. Listen to music that moves you to a better place. Watch a funny short video, or find a friend to share a laugh.
Paid Sick Leave and Expanded Family and Medical Leave Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires certain employers to provide their employees with paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.
Paid Leave Entitlements
Generally, employers covered under the Act must provide employees:
Up to two weeks (80 hours, or a part-time employee’s two-week equivalent) of paid sick leave based on the higher of their regular rate of pay, or the applicable state or Federal minimum wage, paid at:
- 100% for qualifying reasons #1-3 below, up to $511 daily and $5,110 total;
- 2/3 for qualifying reasons #4 and 6 below, up to $200 daily and $2,000 total; and
- Up to 12 weeks of paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave paid at 2/3 for qualifying reason #5 below for up to $200 daily and $12,000 total.
A part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.
In general, employees of private sector employers with fewer than 500 employees, and certain public sector employers, are eligible for up to two weeks of fully or partially paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons (see below). Employees who have been employed for at least 30 days prior to their leave request may be eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of partially paid expanded family and medical leave for reason #5 below.
Qualifying Reasons for Leave Related to COVID-19
An employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because the employee:
- is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
- has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
- is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
- is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
- is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
- is experiencing any other substantially similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has the authority to investigate and enforce compliance with the FFCRA. Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who lawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, files a complaint, or institutes a proceeding under or related to this Act. Employers in violation of the provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to penalties and enforcement by WHD.
What is happening at the national and state level?
Today we heard from our national leaders that an economic and employment stimulus package will be signed into law by the end of the week. We will review the Federal stimulus legislation and determine what implications are contained in the new law for our employees. We will share guidance with you early next week.
Also today, Governor Inslee shared the rate of increase of COVID-19 cases in Washington seems to be slightly slowing. This is good news. The implication is that the social distancing and other community measures are beginning to demonstrate a positive effect on the spread of the corona virus. He further hinted that the current orders may need to be extended, but unless he gives a revised directive, we will stick with our current plans for limited operations through April 6.
What have we heard from you?
I have to report my amazement at how well you have responded to this crisis. Many of you are finding ways to remain connected (at a distance). I see you are using the phone more, emailing more, and joining countless online meetings. Even though it might feel very isolating right now, you are finding ways to maintain a sense of community. I also hear about how you are responding to the needs of children, students, and staff across our region. Thank you.
Your survey responses and emails also show you are very worried about your health and the health of your families. Many staff express concern about their future employment, or stress about finances. These are all real anxieties. We are in uncertain times.
Our leaders are working hard to respond to your concerns. For your health, we are asking that all but a few designated staff remain home. For those who must come to work to perform tasks like printing checks, processing claims, preparing meals, counseling students, or producing learning materials, we are working to ensure you are safe. Social distancing is the new normal. The facilities teams are regularly sanitizing your workplace.
The fiscal team and program managers are regularly reviewing the vitality of our funding sources and expectations of our partners. We are in a good financial position, and many of our programs have reasonable assurance of continued funding. We just do not know how long the stay-home order will remain in effect, or how long schools will be closed.
We also don’t know with certainty about the future of every service we provide. Your program leaders will have a much clearer picture about how things look over the coming weeks. Please reach out to them to share your concerns and to seek direction about your work. I know this causes anxiety for everyone. I wish I had solid answers for you, but there are too many unknown factors. Please know, we are committed to prioritizing meaningful work for our staff.
Finally, as this first full week of altered work draws to a close, I want to share my appreciation for all you do. It is hard being away from our regular routines. We are disconnected and isolated, but we will make it through. A good friend says, “In the stories of our lives, big things like this are just a sentence.” One day we will look back and say, “That was the year schools closed for the corona virus.” That will be it, just a short sentence. It doesn’t feel like that now, I know. It helps me to picture that future and to think of myself looking back and thinking, “Wow, that was hard, but we made it.”
Governor Inslee has directed us to stay home for the next two weeks, through April 6. With the exception of designated personnel, that means…stay at home for work. We are committed to the following our priorities throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We need our staff to be safe, provide support, engage in learning and remain connected to the ESD. We are reviewing all roles/positions to determine if an expectation to report to work away from home exists. For about 25 “essential staff” (technical term under the Governor’s orders), we will ask for only occasional work at offices managed by the ESD.
We will be closing ESD facilities to the public and all but a few designated staff in compliance with the Governor’s orders. Staff who need supplies (not toilet paper) and equipment should come to their workplace to collect them no later than 4:30 PM, March 25. Center-based early learning staff will continue to report to their jobsites as appropriate to their roles and work plans.
We will have a mail collection, package delivery, and facilities coverage plan in place by tomorrow, March 25. After March 25, if you need to access our facilities contact your supervisor and the facilities designee to arrange access to work areas. This only applies to our main building in Tumwater, but may be extended to other facilities we manage.
Work with your supervisor to create individual work plans for the next two weeks. These plans apply to all staff who can reasonably be provided with meaningful work. For this next two-week window, our interpretation of “meaningful work.” Meaningful work can be home-based projects, telecommuting, individual learning plans (including SafeSchools), or other activities that will further your program’s needs and their growth. This guidance applies to full-time and part-time employees.
There are essentially a number of benchmarks we are planning against. First, we hope the April 6 deadline for “Stay Home” will end as stated. I believe this may not be the end of increasing restrictions on work and travel. We will plan for the possibilities of extension beyond April 6, or possible increases in workplace activities. We will be working on regular updates to our plans in two-week chunks.
Second, we are monitoring the school closure deadline of April 24. It is possible the school closure window will extend beyond this date. We are planning for changes in our services, the way we connect to those we serve, and for expanding the way we do business online. This is likely one of our most important areas of growth (individually and collectively) over the next few weeks.
Finally, our budget-development process is in full swing. We are building a budget on what we know right now, but realize the world is changing continually. Our board will adopt next year’s budget in July. So, we are planning backward from their date of approval, with just a few months to get a clearer picture of what we can expect next year.
Thank you for all you do as part of our ESD family. Without you we would not be able to meet the needs of our region’s children, students, families and staff. You make magic happen every day.
The current situation remains fluid, so this guidance my change. But for now, please consider this our “new normal” until April 24.
The guidance aligns with our priorities:
- Safety: Ensure the continued health and wellness of our staff and the children and youth we serve.
- Support: Provide support services for children and youth, and serve as a resource for school districts to help them meet the needs of their communities.
- Engagement: Deliver educational enrichment to children and youth, and professional learning to educators.
- Employment: Maintain our high-quality workforce to remain prepared to meet current and future needs of our staff and those we serve.
If you have a question about your particular situation, talk with your supervisor. If the guidance remains unclear, your supervisor will work with our Leadership Team for a response.
What is the PLAN?
- All employees will telecommute to the greatest extent possible to support social distancing. Minimally, one member of the executive team or facilities staff will be physically present at the Tyee site each day during regular business hours (8:00 AM to 4:30 PM).
- The Tyee site will be closed to the public with access for non-employees by appointment only.
- Employees who have a special need to temporarily access the Tyee site should plan that access with their supervisors
Other Capital Region ESD 113 Facilities
- Our facilities will be closed to the public with access for non-employees by appointment only. This does not include use of our facilities for food service distribution or client/patient care.
- Employees who are meeting in ESD facilities are to follow appropriate health screening protocols and consult their supervisors to implement guidelines for employee gatherings.
Should You Report to Work?
When deciding if you should come to work, consider the following questions:
- Do you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath?
- Has a healthcare provider told you to self-quarantine because of exposure to COVID-19?
- Are you caring for a family member who has been told to self-quarantine?
- Are you caring for young children at home because schools are closed?
- Are you pregnant, over age 60, or suffering from a chronic health condition?
Stay home if you can answer “yes” to any question from 1 through 4. If you answer “yes” to question 5, use your best judgment.
- All employees will have a work plan. They are expected to implement their plan through April 24, or for as long as they have meaningful work to complete.
- If meaningful work is exhausted, as determined by their supervisors, employees can access emergency leave (deducted from sick leave), vacation leave (if applicable), or leave without pay, in any order.
- Head Start employees will continue working on a modified work plan for as long as the funder allows. They will follow the guidance provided by their supervisors regarding use of leave.
- Employees should be readily accessible via phone, email and/or Zoom during regular business hours while in telecommute status.
- Supervisors and employees will create a schedule for regular check-ins.
- Supervisors will determine and approve whether meaningful work exists for an employee to remain in telecommuting/home-based work status.
Employees with serious health conditions who have depleted or could deplete their leave balances may be eligible for shared leave. If you are in this situation, please contact Heidi Westfall in HR at [email protected] or (360) 464-6856.
For employees who accrue vacation leave, there is no change in accrual or use of vacation leave.
Leave Without Pay
Employees may request leave without pay if:
- They are not in telecommuting/home-based work status
- Their supervisor has determined they no longer have meaningful work and they would prefer not to use emergency or vacation leave.
- Employees may request leave without pay intermittently, in conjunction with work and/or emergency leave. (For example, you and your supervisor may agree that you will work two days per week, take emergency leave two days per week, and take leave without pay one day per week.)
- If employees need technology support, they should submit a helpdesk ticket.
- Employees may bring home non-portable technology only with approval by their supervisors.
- IT employees cannot provide support for personal technology devices or services.
We have suspended all out-of-region and out-of-state travel unless it is specifically required by a grant or contract and approved by the program manager and the deputy superintendent (or designee).
- All in-person meetings should be converted to Zoom, when possible.
- Any required in-person meetings cannot exceed 10 participants. Attendees must practice social distancing guidelines.
- Supervisors must approve required in-person meetings.
Outside Facility Use
We have cancelled all facility use by outside groups through April 24.
General Health Guidance
- All employees should monitor their health daily.
- Employees with a temperature above 100.4 degrees or displaying any symptoms such as cough, shortness of breath, cold or allergy symptoms, body aches, and/or unusual fatigue should isolate at home and access sick leave, annual leave or leave without pay, in any order.
- Employees who may have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive or presumptive-positive for COVID-19 should also isolate at home and continue in telecommute/home-based work status, if possible, and if they do not have symptoms. They may access sick leave, annual leave or leave without pay if symptoms develop.
- If there are changes to state or federal laws regarding use of leave we will provide further guidance.
Employee Assistance Program
We recognize that this is an unprecedented time and is overwhelming for many of us. Our employees have access to the ESD’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP).
Capital Region ESD 113 Board of Directors meetings will continue as scheduled, via Zoom.
- Employees not in telecommute/home-based work status should post out-of-office notifications on email and voicemail. (Email template: “I'm sorry I missed you. Our office is closed due to COVID-19. For more immediate assistance, please contact [Contact Person] at [email]."
- Employees in telecommuting/home-based work status do not need to post an out-of-office notification. They are expected to respond to emails and telephone calls as they would under normal working conditions.
What if we are required to “SHELTER IN PLACE”?
In the event of a generalized quarantine, we will implement the following guidelines:
- ESD facilities will close. All staff will no longer report to their on-site work location.
- Employees in telecommuting/home-based work status should continue telecommuting, following the telecommuting expectations noted above.
- Employees without telecommuting agreements, or those with telecommuting agreements who have exhausted meaningful work to complete in telecommuting status, should await further guidance. They should not submit leave requests unless they receive guidance to do so.
We live in a time of tremendous technological advancement and amazing digital connection. We have access to information almost any time anywhere. While the blessings of this time in history are clear, they come at a cost. One of them, at least in the western, industrial world, is increased anxiety. We know a ton, and feel we should be able to control our world…and when we find we cannot, we are confronted with a reality that creates stress.
Right now, with the spread of COVID-19, we are in the midst of uncertainty and dramatic disruption of our regular schedules, work and lives. The responses to our staff survey are clear: We are all concerned about continued employment, our health and the wellness of those we care about. While I cannot make these worries go away, I want to share the priorities and plans of the ESD throughout our response to COVID-19’s challenges.
Capital Region ESD 113 Priorities
- Safety: Ensure the continued health and wellness of our staff and the children and youth we serve.
- Employment: Maintain our high-quality workforce to remain prepared to meet current and future needs of our staff and those we serve.
- Facilities: Our buildings will remain closed to the general public, except for scheduled or previously arranged visits. We will ask guests and staff to self-screen for symptoms and exposure to COVID-19. We will ask anyone with symptoms or possible exposure to remain home. Our facilities teams and contractors will increase sanitizing and cleaning of all workspaces, doors and other frequently touched areas. We will restrict gatherings to 10 or fewer in all common areas and workspaces. We encourage staff to maintain social distancing (6’ or more), to cover coughs, and to practice regular handwashing.
- Telecommuting: We are working to maximize the number of employees working from home. This will mean work assignment changes to provide teleworking or home-based projects. Program managers and supervisors will work with staff to define meaningful work that supports the mission of the ESD, and provides necessary supports to children, youth and staff across our region.
- Program Updates: Our program managers and executive team have been reviewing all our services to determine what changes in service delivery may be required. We will meet Friday morning to review plans for next week and to prepare detailed updates for staff. By Friday afternoon, we will share expectations for work and services next week so everyone knows what is expected.
- Use of Leave: We will waive our usual leave procedures during this crisis and allow staff to use leave as needed. Until we return to a normal operation, staff may use annual leave, sick leave and leave without pay as they feel is most appropriate to manage absences. We will provide specific guidance to all employee groups regarding use of leave over the next couple of days.
- Future Updates: We will email our next update on Friday, March 20. We will continue to update our staff website. Reach out to your supervisor if you have questions.
State and national developments related to the ongoing coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic continue to change rapidly. Last Friday, Governor Inslee ordered the closure of all schools in the State, effective Tuesday, March 17, through at least Friday, April 24, as a measure to slow the spread of the virus. This is an unprecedented step in Washington State. Several other states have also closed all schools.
Governor Inslee has also announced further restrictions on social gatherings, essentially closing restaurants, theaters, and recreational facilities, while retaining grocery and pharmacy services. High-risk individuals are being asked to ensure social isolation, essentially sheltering in place. This further measure is intended to expand the effectiveness of social-distancing measures.
State and county health departments, school districts, and OSPI are scrambling to keep up with these rapidly changing developments. Capital Region ESD 113 finds ourselves in the same boat. Guidance continues to be updated, and the statewide school closure has created a host of new questions that require guidance from the Governor’s office, OSPI, the federal government, and other governmental and regulatory entities.
Week of March 16
Starting Tuesday, March 17, and lasting through Friday, March 20, the following work expectations apply:
- All ESD facilities will be closed to the public. Our regular operations will be suspended and will resume in modified formats/approaches on Monday, March 23.
- Employees identified by leaders as "essential for ESD operations" will be either provided a telecommuting work placement option, or be expected to report to work as usual. Supervisors and employees will work together to create a work-plan identifying work expectations and clarifying roles. Employees may continue to report to work in person at their discretion.
- Employees without telecommute agreements, or who do not have roles appropriate for telecommuting may continue to report to work.
- Employees in positions not designated as essential for ESD operations will not be charged for leave for March 17-March 20.
- Employees will continue to be paid based on their planned work-calendar for March 17-March 20.
Leave previously approved for March 17-March 20 will be charged as approved.
- Employees are encouraged to continue practicing isolation when presenting symptoms of illness, and social distancing during any small group gatherings.
By the end of this week, we will provide updated guidance on work expectations beyond March 20.
From Superintendent Dana Anderson:
Coping With Stress
This morning I was thinking about how life has rhythms. We all have routines, when we get up, what we eat, who we talk to…we have all found some cycle of life, patterns, routines, rhythms…
Well the patterns, routines, and rhythms of life are going to change over the coming weeks. Schools are going to close, districts are going to close, and in most cases for a number of weeks, not a few days. Our patterns of life are going to be disrupted, and that is stressful. Let me just acknowledge that, it is a stressful time. It doesn’t have to be a fearful time, or a panic-filled time, but it is a stressful time, because the rhythms of our days are going to be changed.
How do you cope with stress in healthy ways? First, you acknowledge to yourself and others that you are feeling stressed right now. It is ok, and you are not alone. Share what you are thinking and feeling with a trusted confidant. Second, you need to practice mindfulness. Check in with yourself and ask, "What am I thinking and feeling right now?" Am I worried about something real? Imagined? In my control? Out of my control?"
Focusing on the moment and less on the future is a way to cope with the stress. Finding ways to feel and express gratitude is a great strategy for managing your worries. Give yourself permission to take time (outside of work) to do something that nurtures you (read a book, walk in the forest, talk with a friend, enjoy a meal), these things build your resilience and help you cope.
We’ve told you to take care of yourself by washing your hands, covering your coughs, cleaning your work area…take care of yourself also by practicing mindfulness.
on to the news
You have seen, and will continue to see, district and school closures over the coming days/weeks. These are not going to be snow closures of a day or two, but pandemic control closures lasting weeks. You have to be wondering what the ESD is planning.
We will follow local health department directives as cases of COVID-19 show up in our communities and in our staff. If we are directed to close a center, program or building, we will do so. If a district closes where we have an early childhood program, per our bargaining agreement, we will close the centers in that district. If a district closes where we have programs like GRAVITY or True North, we will consult with health officials and our program staff, and weigh the benefits of continued services and risks of staying open on a case by case basis.
Local government and county officials are moving toward telecommuting for some positions. We are currently preparing to do the same. Right now we are reviewing all staff and all positions to determine those that are telecommuting eligible, and will be preparing tentative telecommuting agreements for appropriate staff roles over the next week. This is a massive undertaking, and we want to do this with purpose and clear planning.
We expect restrictions on large-scale events will come eventually. We are currently reviewing all scheduled events and doing our best to plan for contingencies of continuing or cancelling.
We are reviewing our policies, procedures, agreements and plans to ensure we are ready to ensure continued essential functions, like payroll, decision-making, and essential client services.
Later today we will launch a survey tool to help us gather your questions and concerns so we can improve our communications to staff and help address as many worries as you may have quickly.
I will change the rhythms of my communications to you, to do my best to keep you informed and share our plans as they become clear. The patterns of life and planning and meetings will change for a while, but normal will return.
From Superintendent Dana Anderson:
We are deep into our planning process — both as a system of ESDs, in support of our districts, and taking care of our agency needs.
What can you do right now?
- Get lots of rest.
- Eat properly.
- Drink adequate amounts of water.
- Wash your hands regularly.
Basically, take care of yourself. It all starts there.
- Clean your work area with sanitizing wipes.
- Create social distances in group settings.
- Protect your colleagues by covering your coughs.
- Stay home if you have symptoms.
Here's What We're Planning
We have key staff attending updates at the state- and county-level to ensure we have the most current information. Rest assured, we are on the inside of what is happening.
We will follow local health jurisdiction guidance regarding staff isolation and facilities closures. This guidance is likely to start as general county guidance, then progress to organization-specific direction (clean, close, etc.) based on confirmed cases, then move back to county-wide directives for closures as numbers of cases increase.
Creating contingency plans
Your executive team and superintendent are working on more detailed, ESD-specific plans based on a variety of health department scenarios. Thankfully, our counties have no confirmed cases at this time, so we have the ability to learn from the work of districts and ESDs to the north.
Over the coming days, you will learn about the measures for reducing exposure, and slowing the spread of corona virus in King and Snohomish counties. While their population densities are much greater than our five-county region, we believe similar actions may be taken in the weeks ahead in our area.
At this time, we are planning for significant county-wide responses, but hoping we may be spared the need to implement what you will hear coming to King and Snohomish counties.
Leading by example
Uncertainty is stressful, and the constant news cycle about this outbreak is pretty dramatic. This is a time to be cautiously optimistic, while attending to preparedness planning.
You can help by staying informed, checking rumors you hear with leadership, and putting sound health guidelines into practice.
The Washington State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are the best sources of information. Washing your hands is your best protection against getting sick. Please help us stop the spread of infectious diseases by staying home if you are sick (temperature over 100.5). Limit your risks of infection by washing your hands regularly and covering your cough.
What is Our agency doing to prepare?
ESD 113's Director of Health Services Lynn Nelson is actively participating in regional and statewide public health informational sessions. Our executive team is continually updated by state and local partners. The executive and leadership teams have reviewed and revised our contingency plans.
We are providing cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer for staff and guests. Our facilities teams sanitize common areas (tables, doors, desks) daily.
We ask that staff:
- Wash your hands with soap & water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds. Hand-sanitizing products are a good second choice.
- Clean & disinfect surfaces and objects such as keyboards, doorknobs, and telephones.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth throughout the day to prevent germs from entering your body.
- Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or tissue.
- Stay home when you are sick, and then for 72 hours after the fever is gone.
What if cases occur in our service area?
We are in regular contact with county departments of health. If cases emerge in our service area and county health officials recommend telecommuting, suspending large-group gatherings, or other measures, we will follow their guidance (please note, this has not happened yet).
We are planning for a wide range of possible responses to health office guidance, including limiting staff presence in buildings or closing facilities. We will close offices in our programs and administration buildings if:
- Health officials direct us to close.
- School buildings where we serve children or students close.
Other direct service program closures will be handled case-by-case.
If we close our main building, we will communicate by School Messenger, email, website, and social media (Facebook & Twitter). Contact your supervisor if you have questions about ESD operations.
Employees who work in facilities we close temporarily will need to make up time or submit leave per our inclement weather policy.
We are preparing to allow temporary telecommuting options for staff if a county health office directs us to do so. Telecommuting is not an option for all staff, and we are asking supervisors to review all staff and their roles for the possibility of telecommuting.
Large Group Gatherings
If requested by the county health office, we will limit large group gatherings.