Eagle Point SD: Superintendent Andy Kovach
Leading the charge to innovate learning and re-engage the community
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that being quick to adapt and unafraid of change is critical to good leadership—especially for institutions such as K-12 education, where even the smallest shift in policy often required months of discussion.
When COVID-19 forced the closure of schools throughout the nation in the last half of the 2019-20 academic year, it was immediately apparent that decision-making from the top needed to be decisive and made with the safety of all students, staff and families in mind.
For Eagle Point School District Superintendent Andy Kovach, whose first day in mid-March came just as the confusion surrounding the virus had reached a fever pitch, nothing about his leadership would change as a result of the sudden school closures and the shift to distance learning. That’s because his core values—flexibility, transparency and the understanding that everyone deserves to be treated with respect—remained just as important as ever.
Those same qualities will be critical as Kovach works to re-engage students and families turned off by the idea of distance learning, and rebuild relationships among educators and district staff.
“Although last year was one of the most challenging times for teachers, staff, students and families, it is an opportunity to redefine ourselves and our district,” Kovach says. “I think that if you can create a dynamic that has high trust between different people then you can get to the root of real problems and talk about what you’re actually going to do to solve those. If there are things left unsaid or you aren’t willing to look at other ways of doing things or reexamining prior decisions, then you can’t learn from experience and fix anything.”
Right now, the number one priority is to prepare for the coming school year. This will entail more in-class instruction for K-5 students and a hybrid model of learning for those in grades 6-12. Kovach says that through local partnerships and district supplies, each student was equipped with an iPad and a hotspot for those who lacked internet access at home. Should the virus flare back up within Eagle Point SD requiring a shift back into distance learning, it needs to be done better than before, he says. The good news is that we have been learning as we go and I am confident that we can successfully meet the challenge.
“We’ve had to do so much of our work virtually that it’s upped our game,” Kovach says. “In this coming year we’ve put in a new learning management system, which is essentially a way for teachers to be able to work with all their students as well as other teachers and pool resources across the district.” In a school system that spans about 100 miles from one end to the other, this ability to share materials in real time will be critical to their ability as a district to adapt with speed and efficiency.
Kovach says that regardless of what comes next, his district will continue to roll with the punches. That sort of adaptability has been a hallmark of Eagle Point SD’s success. “There’s so much uncertainty all the time. What was true last Tuesday is now obsolete, and you just have to get used to and lead through that.”