Grand Rapids Public Schools' new superintendent discusses pandemic challenges

Posted at 3:41 PM, Jul 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-30 15:41:34-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — As the new superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools, Dr. Leadriane Roby had to face about as tough a challenge as you could: a global pandemic two months into the job.

“There’s always things that will happen to any of us and situations that will take place that you have no control,” Roby said. “It’s about how do you approach what’s taking place and move forward.”

GRPS announced Monday that the district’s students would be learning from home until at least October.

Roby, a fresh face in the system, has had to make quick work of adjusting, even when it comes to meeting her own district. She says she’s only seen some of her staff and community members over technology.

Roby brings with her to Grand Rapids 26 years of experience in education. She’s been a teacher, a principal and has helped lead districts in both Michigan and Minnesota. But this new job comes with new challenges Roby and superintendents around the country have had to confront with rapid speed and not much precedent.

“Education will never go back to what it was prior to March 15, 2020 and I don’t necessarily think it should,” Roby said. “I think that this is an opportunity to engage kids in a different way. It’s an opportunity to reengage us as educators to reinvent teaching and education and look at how we do our practice in a different way.”

And as a long-time educator, Roby has some advice for parents wondering how to talk to their kids about the changes.

“First of all, ask the question: How are you feeling about this? What excites you about this? Because there are some pieces around this that can be really exciting and kind of new,” Roby said. “And then: What are the things that may make you a little bit nervous? And listen to that as well.”