Update from the Super's Office:

Superintendent Theresa Axford

May 4, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I attended the Ribbon Cutting at the Key West High School Back Yard last Tuesday. What a thrill! I am in such awe of how much things can change over time. I used to think we had a fine area for track behind Key West High, but over time things go downhill and need attention, but when I say attention, this is absolutely phenomenal. Everything that you need for a fantastic track and field program is there, in addition, a state of the art softball field resides in the area along with a beautiful soccer practice field and a rehearsal area for outdoor band practice. It’s really a great tribute to our school board for consistently approving projects that make a difference for students.

If you have visited the athletic fields at Marathon High School, you will be equally awed. In fact, many coaches say our fields could work for professional play. Coral Shores High School Athletic complex is coming up on the docket as well.

In fact when you consider the building we have done in the district over the past ten years, it really is beyond amazing. Plantation Key School is an architectural wonder with all the interesting spaces for students. It has a decidedly marine theme, which focuses on the importance of conservation and restoration in our fragile marine environment. Next is Gerald Adams School. It makes everyone feel like they are inhabitants of the 21st Century and that is all good. Parents who came into that new building shed tears of joy as they viewed the extraordinary classroom spaces and the amazing hallway with furnishings everywhere that are accommodating to all different learning styles. It is so beautiful. Stanley Switlik School looks like a resort with the wonderful window treatments and the bright colors. But when you visit, you realize it is designed for learning and makes everyone feel better just being there. We all are capable of learning so much more when the environment is right.

Now we are building the new wing at Sugarloaf School. This wing is needed so badly. I have been concerned about the status of the classrooms for K-2 students there for quite awhile. As principal for thirteen years, those classrooms were on my radar almost from my first day. Many kudos go to Sugarloaf teachers who have done their best to make them inviting for many years. The new building is long overdue.
As stated earlier, we are beginning to look at the Coral Shores athletic complex but next up is Tommy Roberts Memorial Stadium in Key West along with the baseball complex on the same grounds. I am very excited to see how this project progresses. It should be amazing. Once again, I return to thanking our School Board whose vision and commitment to making things better for students is the beacon going forward.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

April 25, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

Shortly, we will be involved in wonderful graduations at our three high schools, promotion ceremonies at our middle schools and end of year celebrations in our elementaries. All of these are well-earned, in a year that will most definitely go down in history.

Much thought will be given to the lessons we have learned and to the losses we have suffered. I have been amazed at the commitment of our students during this time. Most recently, they have been writing in the Superintendent’s Writing Challenge about the nature of video games and how they affect students’ lives. When I read what they had to say, it gave me confidence the world will be in good hands when they reach maturity and also that the future will be safe with them at the helm. They are both practical and truthful; aware of the dangers and the advantages of being too involved in these mesmerizing games. They recommend moderation. A trait that is one of the most important to show in most phases of life for all of us.

We need moderation right now in our attitude toward the changes occurring in the world because of Covid-19. The transmission rate for the virus in Monroe County is still in the red zone, but more and more people are being vaccinated and that’s a good thing. That makes people much more safe, but with variants in the mix, we still need to be cautious.

We are maintaining safety standards in our schools, but we are unable to always maintain six foot distancing now that so many students have returned to the classroom five days a week. This makes it necessary to quarantine more close contacts of students who become positive. I know the quarantining is causing some parents concern and I would like to avoid it where possible; but we still must follow CDC guidelines. The nurses in our schools are going into classrooms to measure with a six foot ruler to determine whether students are seated within six feet of one another and when they are, and there is a possible exposure to Covid, quarantines are called for.

I am asking everyone to be moderate in their reaction to these notifications about quarantines. Just like the kids recommend moderation for video games. We are almost at the end of this and we still need to protect one another and be safe. Also a reminder: the masking rule remains in place. The students are so used to wearing a mask now that they are not much of an issue for them anymore, but the day when they are not needed will be a welcome one.

I would personally like to thank everyone for keeping to the standards set by the CDC and for being our partners in getting through the pandemic as safely as possible. It has truly taken a partnership to get through this and we have certainly exhibited that partnership throughout this year.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

April 13, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

Good news came from Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran on Friday, increasing local control over decisions related to graduation and promotion of students. The news is going to help our students this spring. Seniors will be required to attain passing grades in all their subject areas to graduate but will not have to demonstrate a passing score on state assessments. In addition, third grade students will also demonstrate their third grade competencies through local assessments and in achievements in their classes rather than the state third grade assessment. We are really pleased to get this information from the Commissioner and it shows how much he is willing to work with local school systems.

But this news does not mean we won’t have testing in the next four weeks. We will be giving tests which will allow us to examine where learning losses have occurred and what steps need to be taken to rectify those losses moving forward. We already have an indication of students’ needs based on local assessments and teacher formative assessments.

Based on our understanding of student needs, we are planning a very robust summer program which will be delivered in two four-week sessions. These sessions will run from June 7 to July 2 and from July 6 to July 30. Schools are putting together plans to support students, and parents will have the opportunity to select from an array of options. These will include remediation classes where learning losses are addressed and those focusing on enrichment and the interests of students.

Many students will be asked to attend for specific reasons and teachers will be making those recommendations as well. Each school is preparing a roster of offerings to be available to parents in the next couple of weeks.

School year 2020-2021 has been anything but normal, but our students have excelled nonetheless in so many ways. Just take a look at our successes in the world of athletics. We are consistently performing in the top tier in our competitions and our athletes are shining examples of the qualities supported in our school system.

I recently received a letter from the Director of Sales for Spring Hill Suites, Marriott who wanted me to know how well our baseball team comported themselves during their spring break away games. She said, “we are thrilled to have a group of guests who understand the importance of always wearing a mask without any negative comments or backlash at our associates.” She explained further that with other teams, behavior issues arise frequently regarding Covid mandated procedures and our team was truly appreciated for their attitude.

As Superintendent, I applaud our team for their excellent representation of our school district and I am glad we have been able to conduct our Sports Programs with safety this year. It has been a challenge for all our coaches and players, but they have been stellar and I am very proud of them.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

April 4, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

My husband’s niece and her two daughters are visiting from Philadelphia. The girls are 13 and one is going to be 16 next week. They are both into dancing and the older is a singer also. They have appeared in school productions, their local community theatre and in the recitals done by their dance teacher and are especially fond of recounting their different roles in the Nutcracker. They both are great students and all around lovely. Things have been really great for them until Covid-19. Talking with them helped me to realize how universal are all the problems our students have faced.

The thirteen-year-old pretty much stopped attending her virtual classes in November and her mother was frantic with trying to get her back in gear. Now she’s attending school regularly everyday like we are, but she’s still very apprehensive about getting Covid-19. The older girl loves school and seems to be back in the swing, but both of them have been deprived of their main outlet, which was dancing and practicing and performing in theater productions. They still have dance practice, but the owner of the school is very cautious and keeps strict social distancing guidelines in place so that old level of camaraderie they felt with friends is strained. The girls are a little subdued like our kids are and they do not have that “joyous” aspect about them that we are used to seeing in our kids. Their grades are improving back to their former Covid-19 status and they are eager to learn about the beautiful Florida Keys. This has been a much-needed respite for them and I am glad that I was able to provide that. They still have to quarantine when they return home but I think they took that into consideration before making the trip. Hopefully, they will have no troubles getting back into the groove when they return.

This visit causes me to reconsider all the ramifications of the pandemic as I do all of the time. I believe we are going to get past this soon, but our lives have been truly overwhelmed by the happenings of the last year. Going forward, we are going to need to be even more supportive of our students. We need to create opportunities for them to share how this situation has changed life for them and we need to ask them what we can offer them to make up for some of the things that they missed. We need to ask each one to share what they need going forward. Some may not know, but others may and it will be so helpful to hear from students.

I have been so impressed with how deeply students are thinking and writing about the topics in the Superintendent’s Writing Challenge. They have so many of the answers. All we have to do is listen!

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

March 26th, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

Spring is nigh. The weather is beautiful and we have much to be thankful for. In our district, over 600 teachers and staff have been vaccinated and that number grows every day. We are definitely thankful for this. The vaccination distributions that the district has been helping with have garnered many thank you notes from teachers who express clearly the sigh of relief that they felt in getting their first shots. Let’s hope that these vaccinations will protect us from serious illness and hospitalizations going forward.

Many more students will return to school after our Spring Break. We will continue to follow all CDC guidelines. The CDC has changed the six feet social distancing rule, which was holding us back from admitting more students, to three foot distance. We are working over the Spring Break to organize desks in our classroom to be sure we can comply with the new three feet guidelines. I met with principals Friday afternoon. They assured me based on the return of surveys in their buildings, and phone calls they made to parents, they can create the three feet social distancing in classrooms. I was invigorated after talking to them because it is my goal always to put health and safety first in schools. In classes where the three feet guidelines cannot be met, principals are planning alternate meeting places for those students. We will continue to require face coverings throughout the buildings. Teachers will continue to offer mask breaks and sanitizing will continue as well. Students receive hand sanitizer on the way into their classrooms, on the way out and frequently used surfaces are sanitized throughout the day. Monroe County School District has the lowest juvenile transmission rate for the virus in the state and we want to keep that great statistic moving forward.

Spring Break is taking place this week for teachers and students. It’s an opportunity to get some rest, relax a little, enjoy family time and to recharge to get ready for the remainder of the school year. Students will have many opportunities to make-up work and do what's necessary to bring their grades up during the fourth nine weeks. If students are having difficulty, they should definitely let teachers know they need help and want to be successful. We have tutoring programs before school, after school and on Saturdays for students who need additional help and teachers are ready to provide assistance where needed. Please keep that in mind if you know a student who needs assistance.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

March 14th, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

Although we are not past the pandemic, there’s good news now and that increases our hope for better days ahead. For one thing at least two hundred teachers and staff of Monroe County Schools have received at least the first vaccine. That fact certainly adds to our confidence. Next, there is a new study coming out of the United Kingdom that says three feet of social distancing is as good as six feet. That will change our lives in schools. My understanding is the CDC may publish new guidelines related to this study shortly. I think most of our classrooms can seat at least 20 students with three feet of social distancing between them.

Throughout the Pandemic, our district has literally followed the science. Based on our adherence to the science, we have the lowest juvenile transmission rate for Covid-19 in the state. This success is largely due to our Guidebook to Safely Reopening Schools, which we developed while working with community members and health experts.

Our goal has always been to reopen schools fully when conditions indicated it was safe to do so. Our position on reopening was recently accelerated based on orders from the Commissioner of Education. We all hope we can continue to operate safely. We have to continue with all of our safety measures relating to hand washing, mask wearing and avoiding crowded spaces. We will continue to make sure that happens and we will continue our efforts with cleaning highly touched surfaces regularly throughout the day.

So after Spring Break we can look forward to many more of our students coming back to school. Of course, the return is based on parent choice so please complete our survey by 10:00 AM Monday, March 15th so that we can adjust bus routes and prepare to receive your students once again. We will greet them with pleasure and excitement.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

February 28, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

We are following Covid-19 Cases in our schools very carefully.  I have been speaking to both Bob Eadie, the Monroe County Health Department Administrator and Dr. Mark Whiteside, the Health Department Epidemiologist, and they are concerned about the new variants and, of course, the juvenile transmission rate in Monroe.  A new report by the Florida Department of Health shows our juvenile transmission rate is very low but the new variants seem to have more impact on youth so they are watching carefully in case there is an increase.   They are also very carefully watching the spread of the virus in our schools.  Our safety measures are paying off with very few cases in our schools; you only need to go to our dashboard to know that.  You can find it on our website, keysschools.com under the menu item “MCSD Covid-19 Response”.

Recently we have seen a couple of situations that made us realize how important it is to reinforce safety measures and to get parent cooperation in that reinforcement.  These safety measures, when present and practiced regularly, help us to avoid the need to shut down whole classrooms.  They also keep our staff healthy and able to work. 

 I can give you some examples of things that have happened lately that make this renewed emphasis on  our safety precautions important.  We had three students in a classroom who came to school with symptoms indicative of Covid-19 and  two of those three were positive once they were tested; we had a group project at a school that caused student-to-student spread; we had an incidence of teacher to student transmission; and we had an example of student to teacher transmission. We have also had situations where students have come to school despite the fact that someone in their household was sick.

These situations make it clear that the necessity of  social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing can’t be overstated.  That is why we have issued the following message reminding everyone of these important safety rules in place to keep us all safe:

  • DO NOT send your child to school if someone in your household is having signs/symptoms of COVID

  • If anyone in a household has a pending COVID test and is awaiting results, please keep children home and notify school.

  • If you learn your child has come into close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID please keep the child home for 10 days from their last close contact and notify school.

  • Do not send a child to school if they are showing any symptoms of Covid-19. According to the CDC, these include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle or body aches, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, diarrhea.


We really appreciate the fact that vaccines are becoming more available.  I got an email from the chancellor of K-12 Education, Jacob Oliva, on Thursday requesting the number of teachers and staff that are working in our schools who are over 50.  This is an excellent sign all of our requests to get vaccines to teachers and staff are being heard.  The news makes me very happy.  


We all want to move as quickly as possible toward a time when we can function more normally and this time is very much on the horizon.  As we move in this direction, we need to embrace precautions even more heartily to ensure everyone stays safe and can enjoy the rewards of the vaccines and good health for all in the future. 


Yours in education,

Terri Axford


February 22, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

There have been many new developments in our day to day reality during the pandemic. One of them that concerns us as a school district is that many high school students have gone to work. This has happened in some cases due to need, and also because they suddenly have more flexible time available to do so.

Many of them have found it necessary to help support their families. Our community is so reliant on the service industry that many service industry workers have been out of work or have been working reduced hours for many months. Food scarcity has suddenly become an issue for many families who now find themselves in line to get help with food and other basic needs.

Students are deeply affected by this and many have gone to work. The A/B school day, which we put in place to create appropriate room for social distancing, allows students to work either two days or three days a week. I am concerned by this. As Superintendent, I want every student to be the best they can be. This includes each one getting a high school diploma and having a clear pathway post-secondary. I am concerned work will become too intriguing or too necessary and students might abandon high school completion plans.

With that in mind, we are expanding our On the Job Training program, Internship program and College of the Florida Keys (CFK) Pathways to Industry certifications. We are developing a job bank working with community partners for each student who is interested in pursuing these career and technical opportunities.

We had a very successful meeting on Wednesday with community representatives from the hospital, Area Health Education Centers (AHEC), the College of Florida Keys, Keys Energy Services, the Key West Chamber of Commerce and the School District Facilities and Information Technology (IT) departments. The meeting gave us the information we need to continue to pursue this avenue for students. Each representative spoke of their interest in working with students to advance training opportunities. Though we have been interested in pursuing this for a while, Covid-19 brought the importance of it into focus and we are making the advances necessary to support students in this way.

This is just one of the issues I have asked students to talk about in the Superintendent’s Writing Challenge this month. The topic for the writing challenge in February is to discuss what new traditions or customs may result from our Covid-19 experiences. I can’t wait to hear their thoughts. They were both eloquent and practical in writing on last month’s topic. In January, they gave very good information on how to prevent Covid stress. I learned a lot from reading their essays. If you have not seen them, excerpts are available on our website under the topic at www.keysschools.com/writing_challenge.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

February 14, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

February 17th is national “Random Acts of Kindness Day”. Who among us will complain about being on the receiving end of an act of kindness? I would hope no one would. So, on Wednesday, the Monroe County School District will be celebrating the day along with the rest of the nation.

For more inspiring quotes, visit
randomactsofkindness.org
Being kind to others pays amazing dividends. Performing an act of kindness makes us feel happier. It’s also good for our hearts and actually reduces blood pressure. Kindness slows ageing. In a study, scientists found that people who performed the ‘Loving Kindness Compassion Meditation’ reduced inflammation in their body, slowing the ageing process.

Kindness improves relationships. We all like people who show us true kindness. Kindness reduces the emotional distance between people and we feel more bonded to those who are kind to us.

Lastly, Kindness is contagious. Just as a pebble creates waves when it is dropped in a pond, so acts of kindness ripple outward touching others’ lives and inspiring kindness everywhere the wave goes.

All the schools will be paying it forward on Wednesday in unique and creative ways. We will be covering these kindnesses on social media and on our website. One principal told me they are celebrating all week. She is always a leader who latches on to anything positive and extends it. I admire and appreciate her so much.

At the school district office, we are each going to write a note of kindness to a person who has made our lives a little better by something he or she said or did for us. We are also going to wear “Random Acts of Kindness” pins.

It’s been a long pandemic with few festivities and many issues surfacing every day. I have spent many hours in my house, cooking, cleaning and sewing, many hours on Zoom and FaceTime talking to and watching my family members. Each of them has shown kindness to me in a variety of ways. I plan to take this opportunity to let them know how much they have done to keep my spirits up and how much I appreciate them.

During this difficult time, teachers and students have done the same for each other. They have worked very hard and diligently together, and followed all the safety rules we have set for them. It has been a masterful exercise in cooperation and commitment. I can’t even begin to offer enough thanks and praise for this work. But I will pay it forward on Wednesday and thank all of them with some Random Acts of Kindness. I hope all of this kindness will spread throughout the district and make a difference in everyone’s day.


February 8, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

The path is clear for the district in focusing on wellness in the coming year. And statistics show a focus on wellness has many rewards like increased job satisfaction and increased stress reduction. I say the path is clear because a national poll showed 27% of educators surveyed said they plan on leaving the profession, 74% said they are struggling financially, 64% said they are reducing their contributions to their savings, and 77% say they spend more time on the job than they did last year. Pretty alarming. Add to those statistics the trauma and confusion created by Covid-19 and you have a recipe that calls for immediate action.

I have listened to our teachers this year and tried to relieve some of their stress with less paperwork and less focus on evaluation. There is much left to do, however. The wellness work we will do in coming months will be focused on encouraging comprehensive self-care strategies. These strategies won’t take a lot of training or time, but they will focus on things we can do right now to improve the wellness of our employees. In focusing on wellness, we need to focus on three distinct aspects of our lives. We must nourish the body, the mind and the spirit to be really well.

The first step in this pursuit of overall school wellness is for our principals and planning teams to complete a school “Index of Questions" or an assessment to determine where they might need to target their attention. Based on the results of the assessment, they will then be able to access tools, training, and guidance to support the development of more positive and resilient school environments.

One of the tools I have used myself was a “Loving Kindness” meditation. It was wonderful to be led through a meditation that helped to focus on how someone else might feel and how often we fail to actually try to understand another’s point of view by standing in their shoes. The meditation was attached to a stress reduction training that only took 20 minutes in total.

I know how much our employees have to do to stay current with their workloads. It can be overwhelming. But I think if we all grab little segments of time to focus on wellness, we will be helping ourselves improve in all aspects of our lives. This really applies to all of us during this pandemic and the daily stresses it has caused. There are many ways to just take a short break to concentrate on something that makes us feel good - exercise, a short, positive meditation period, a quick yoga session, a walk outside. Anything that takes us out of the situation, even if for a few minutes.

For me, exercise is critical and I devote 30 minutes a day to the Esmonde Technique developed by Miranda Esmonde White. She has developed a system for stretching and strengthening all muscles and joints to increase flexibility and strength. I couldn’t do without these daily work-outs, but I still need to do more about stress. We all do.

I hope the teams doing our assessments will enjoy and appreciate the process and the assessment will help them to determine specific strategies and ideas to support the needs of our employees. As I said earlier, it makes great sense as we come out of the pandemic to focus on wellness because we all need to recalibrate our lives as we move ahead with a view toward greater physical, mental and spiritual health.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

February 2, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

Everybody wants a vaccine, at least all the people I talk to would like one. I have been on a quest try to get vaccines to our over 65 employees in the district and our teachers and staff who are medically fragile. In this effort,I have been pursuing every rabbit down the hole, but they have been elusive.

I have had regular conversations with Bob Eadie, Director of the Monroe County Health Department. We spoke just last Friday about the status vaccines and the Health Department. He told me the original 1300 doses the Health Department got were administered to health care professionals throughout the county. Leftover doses went to people over 65. Since then, the Publix in Key West has been getting 250 doses per week; the Publix in Islamorada gets the same and the Health Department gets 100 doses. Bob said he sends those 100 doses to Marathon because they are not provided for in any other way. Bob told me he calls the director in Tallahassee on a daily basis and the director says the doses are just not there to allocate.

Knowing all of that, I have pursued other avenues. I heard the Ocean Reef Community Foundation has gotten doses and we let them know we are interested in getting vaccines to our over 65 school employees. They said they would send vaccines our way should some become available because they understand and support the need for teachers to be vaccinated. We have also sent a request for vaccines to Shannon Weiner, our director of Emergency Management.. We have gotten no response from her as of yet.

Our latest tip is a company called Curative which sets up kiosks to do rapid testing. We have heard they are now going to deploy the vaccine as well. We are in contact with them to find out if they are coming to Monroe County with this service.

Lastly, we have been working with the college in an effort to help with the vaccine effort in the county. Dr. Guevara thought Baptist Health System was going to be able to provide 5,000 doses to Monroe County. His nursing staff was going to administer the vaccines and we in the school district were going to offer two sites as vaccination centers. But unfortunately the Baptist doses fell through. So as you can see, we are working every angle we can to get our employees - and others in our community - vaccinated as quickly as possible.

The conundrum for Bob Eadie is he doesn’t have nearly enough vaccines. In addition to that problem, he is required to follow the Governor’s distribution plan which has prioritized those who are aged 65 and over. Each time I call him, he is more and more frustrated with not being able to vaccinate more people sooner.

I think for all of us, when it comes to the issue of vaccines, patience, compassion, and kindness have got to be the operative words as we wait for the trickle of vaccines to increase over time. All of us have a stake in this effort, and all of us are doing what we can. I hope this helps explain the situation for the time being. I will continue to update through this blog.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

January 24, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

It’s Literacy Week in the Monroe County Schools. The theme is Humanity Tells a Story: What’s Your Chapter? It calls on us to review how books and reading helped create our life story.


I have had fun thinking about that in the last few days. And talking to others about it. I made a video for the students about a book that influenced me when I was about 8 years old. I am the oldest of six children and my mom was an avid reader. She believed in the classics and shared them with me. The first book that she gave me to read was “Hans Brinker or the Silver Skates.” I loved the book and it completely transported me to another place and time. Hans Brinker lived in Holland and the book centers on life there. He also skated throughout the winter and skating plays a big part in the book. It’s a story of something that is lost, something found. It is sad and joyous and conveys real life. It portrays compassion and grace under pressure.

From the moment I began the book, I wanted to go to Holland to see their canals and lovely streets with all the three story wooden houses. I could identify with the story in many ways. I grew up outside of Philadelphia in Bucks County, Pa. We had a system of canals that ran through our community and in the winter we went ice skating when the canals were frozen. We could skate for miles and we played games like whiplash and tag and whiled away the day on the ice. Skating was a winter activity that we loved.

I finally had the opportunity to go to the Netherlands, and Amsterdam, in 2015. Holland, where the story of Hans Brinker takes place, is made up of two provinces of the Netherlands. Amsterdam, the capital of the Netherlands, is located in one of those provinces in Holland. It is a beautiful medieval and modern city. I went in the fall so the canals had not iced over, but I took a boat ride through them and I could picture Hans Brinker and his friend Peter and sister Gretel making their way through the city. It was a thrilling experience for me and the excitement and desire to see it was kindled many years ago.

I have heard similar stories from others. Although everyone one says there are numerous books that have influenced them, they always can mention one. When I asked Guy DeBoer for the book that has influenced him, he readily replied “Huckleberry Finn.” He said it gave him a spirit of adventure; Ron Saunders said for him, it was “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” The book enhanced his life in politics. Both of these books are classics and are favorites of mine too. Through books, we can find commonalities and talking points that add to the quality of our lives. I hope you help celebrate this month by thinking about the book that has added to your chapter of the story of humanity and share that book with your students, your friends or your family members.

Schedules for Literacy Week at each school are on the individual school’s website. If you want to participate in any of the activities, call the school office and they will share the school’s Covid-19 responsible literacy week plan.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

January 19, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I can feel it in the air, people are excited about vaccines becoming available and the endless possibilities a vaccinated population will afford.

I can’t tell you how much schools will enjoy that status. So many of the great things we do in schools have been completely disrupted or put on the back burner because of Covid-19.

In an effort to increase writing activities and encourage students in their writing efforts, I created the “Superintendent’s Writing Challenge”. A topic will be announced on the first school day of each month through the end of the school year. Entries will be due on the last school day of each month. Students in grades 3-12 are eligible to submit entries. The topic for this month’s essay is “What can you do to help prevent stress from Covid-19.” I know we will get some great tips from our students in this area. There will be a winner and two runners-up each month in this essay contest and I am hoping the winners and runners-up will be able to join me in a Facebook Live session to share their thoughts on their topic. I will keep everyone posted on this.

I cannot begin to explain how grateful I am to our students for working so hard to keep up with their schoolwork during Covid-19. It has been a real exercise in persistence and commitment to stay current with everything and I am so thankful our students are doing everything they can to stay involved.

Today, I would like to pay special thanks to our athletic directors and our coaches who have worked so hard during the fall season to keep our sports programs alive. It has been a very real challenge to schedule games and then to switch on a dime when a scheduled game is cancelled due to Covid – it has been amazing to watch the versatility and agility of ADs as they work to create new schedules, obtain new opponents and keep things going. I never thought we could have decent seasons in all the fall sports under these difficult circumstances, but I am thrilled to say everyone’s hard work has paid off for our students and we have had great sports seasons all around.


Yours in education,
Terri Axford

January 11, 2021

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I don’t know about you, but I do the Facebook puzzles and games sometimes, I get a kick out of them. I guess many people do. Most recently, I did one that asked me to look for words in a grid of letters. It said the first four words you saw would be the things you should focus on for the coming year. Mine were: Connection, Purpose, Change, and Gratitude. I could not have been more pleased with these words and indeed they suggest to me some of the most important areas going forward this new year.

Connection is one of the most important things we can all focus on. The virus has contrived to break our connections by denying us the venues we normally use to connect to others. Just think of the supermarket. I used to enjoy going, not only to shop but to see people and to chat with them as I traveled through the aisles. Now the grocery store is a place we try to get out of as soon as possible and we don’t even recognize many of our friends because they have masks on. I am still really bad at recognizing people in masks. I thought over time I would get better but it hasn’t happened.

Our kids have lost their connections to an amazing degree – that really worries me the most. Students learn so much by their connections to others. Students grow and learn when they engage in group discussions in the classroom, when they listen to questions and thoughts from others, when they hear agreement or disagreement from their peers. So much of the world, and our success in it, is relational. Over the past year our kids have been deprived of these rich structured relationships, or had them reduced significantly, by the pandemic.

Next: Purpose. I know many have criticized me for this, but my goal, my purpose this second semester is to try to find a safe time and safe circumstances to bring all our students back full time. I hope you all know by now I will not make any decisions on this issue without great consideration and without the counsel of many experts, but I think it’s extremely important for us to get students back in school full time as soon as possible. When you look at our relatively low numbers of virus cases in schools, it is clear we have put the proper safety procedures in place and they are working. I pray this continues and there is a time in the second semester when we are able to bring all students back.

Change, our next word, is always the most difficult area to embrace. We all gravitate to what we know and what is comfortable. I believe change can be a powerful force when it is exercised with careful thought and with a greater good in mind. Let’s hope we can embrace the changes necessary to make our future brighter and better.

Lastly: Gratitude. I am grateful for many things. I keep a gratitude journal and regularly add to it. I love to read it whenever I am down or feel I have been slighted in some way. Thoughts of gratitude easily stem the tide of small selfish thoughts that sometimes arise from day to day actions and interactions.

I hope everyone can embrace the new year with encouragement and hope. We have been through much together and we need to keep supporting one another as we progress on our path out of this pandemic.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

December 29, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

As we leave 2020 behind, I have many thoughts on the year. I am sure everyone will have many memories of this year etched in their minds, some good memories but many bad ones.

On the good side, I must once again praise the staff in our schools who made an enormous commitment in their efforts to keep everyone safe. It was truly a noble effort and one that yielded rewards in our ability to keep our case count low while providing students with some type of in person instruction, albeit limited in grades 6-12.

The most disturbing memory though will be how disrupted the lives of our students have become. I saw one student‘s description of the virtual learning environment as herself being slowly erased, first her presence was erased by not attending school then her voice was replaced by chat and her face was replaced by a logo and so on until she disappeared.

I know our students really feel this way and it is very upsetting. Many dreams have been dashed by the lack of peer interaction and the lack of a normal schedule. It is my fervent wish that in the second semester of this school year all students will be able return to in-person school full time during the second semester, including those students in grades 6 - 12 who are currently on an A/B schedule . We will be watching the numbers and working with the health department on a daily basis to review the virus situation with that end in mind.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the agencies and individuals, teachers and staff who did so much to make this holiday a wonderful one for our families. To say people are in need based on the trajectory the virus has taken and its impacts on the economy is really too feeble a description. It is always inspiring to see how our Keys Community steps up to support others especially our children. From the extensive food distributions to the clothing and gifts given to our students, a hearty thank you is in order.

Let’s pray that in the new year of 2021, the vaccine is plentiful and those who want it can have it, our economy turns around and people get back to work and all of our students return to school without danger or fear.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

December 20, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

The holidays are upon us. It’s a time to share our best feelings of kindness and love with family and friends. I hope the holiday season will fill your homes with joy, your heart with love and your life with laughter.

As lovely as the holidays can be, they can also make people feel down and stressed. I know this can be a difficult time of year and I want you to know you are not alone. Your school district family is ready to support you in many different ways. If you need community resources, the best folks to reach out to are our school social workers. They have a tremendous amount of information on community resources for mental health and information on community support as well -for gifts for kids or for food or whatever your needs are. Don’t hesitate to reach out to them.

I feel very grateful for Team Monroe and for how they have made this school year successful in the direst of situations. It’s hard to fully express how far we’ve come and what tremendous efforts have been put forward.

Our teachers and staff show their love and support for students every day and go beyond the call of duty as a rule of thumb. I am constantly amazed at how well everyone keeps their focus, not only on the academic needs but the social/emotional needs of kids as well. I hear stories everyday of ways teachers are managing difficult situations with kids. An example: the teacher who said “take the test home and use any resource available to complete it.” One might say this is an open book test and it is, but it is also an exercise in writing, in doing research and in comprehension. I hope when students reflect on this Covid-19 year, they will see how much teachers have supported them.

I think the gift I would like to give school district personnel this year is hearty applause for their selfless support of our students and families and for their unparalleled commitment to making education a community priority. I know our families believe we have done an amazing job of getting and keeping kids in school and we look forward to a new year that is going to bring us healthy and happy days ahead.

Yours in education, 
Terri Axford

December 10, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

Sometimes it’s really good to look at numbers and statistics. They can make you feel good and they can keep you motivated. If the pounds have been creeping up on the scale, you may have to start a diet regimen. If you decide on a weight goal and you take measured steps to reach the goal, a daily weight check or a weekly one is probably part of the regimen you have established. Keeping track of those numbers to review your progress will ensure you reach your goals and will provide the sense of success that will keep you going.

I have by necessity been keeping track of Covid cases in the district and their corresponding percentages of our total populations. As of today, we have a total of 87 students out of a student population of 8,697, or 1 percent who have been infected since the beginning of the school year. We have a total of 11 teachers out of 603, or 1.8 percent who have been infected and we have 23 support staff out of 885, or 2.5 percent who have been infected. Thanks to our whole staff who have been vigilant in keeping our safety protocols in place. It is inspiring to see how each building and department is keeping its members safe.

As I mentioned in an email to district personnel on Friday, we are in the midst of a marathon with Covid-19. We have spent a long time practicing safety measures. We are ready to be with our families and friends without precautions. I feel the same way you do. But it’s proof of strength and success when we don’t falter as we near the end. It is becoming clear from listening to the news, our scientists and health experts a vaccine is going to be available beginning in the next few weeks for some segments of the population. I am very happy about that. In fact joyous. But the vaccine is not going to change things quickly for most of us except possibly our feelings of hope and anticipation. We are going to need to continue to wear masks and practice social distancing and hand washing and other safety precautions for the next six months until there is widespread distribution of the vaccine. We will have much less to fear in our daily lives as the vaccine gets out there.

You may be concerned about receiving a vaccine. You will have a choice but we will all reap the benefits of a population that has been vaccinated. Keep your guard up and maintain all the safety precautions and we will reach the finish line together.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

November 22, 2020
Dear Monroe County Teachers Parents and Staff,

When I think of the things I am grateful for, my family is always my first thought. I am sure many of you agree. I was planning to go to my son’s for Thanksgiving this year, but as a family we decided against it. Traveling seems to be off the table this Thanksgiving and I don’t want to do anything when we are this close to a vaccine to jeopardize my health or the health of others. It’s a pretty sad thought. I am going to miss the hugs and kisses of my children and grandchildren on this holiday when we all give thanks. But give thanks I definitely will.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to have families intact and alive should be thankful, even if we cannot all be together this year. Video meetings, whether they be on ZOOM, Skype, Facetime or another platform, can be surprisingly enjoyable as most of us know after spending so much time on them during the last 8 months.

When I think of families throughout our nation who are missing family members due to the virus, it breaks my heart. I am particularly thankful for our health care professionals who are on the front lines every day fighting the virus. Many of them have lost their lives in the fight. Their courage is remarkable. Because of their sacrifices, we must all be grateful and we must strive to give back to others who are facing struggles right now, especially those with serious medical conditions and those with food and housing insecurity.

I am also so thankful for the wonderful life I had with my husband. He passed away in January of 2019 and one of my favorite pastimes is to look at pictures we took together over the years. They are a testament to the happiness we shared and it makes me feel so connected to him when I see the pictures and recall the events surrounding them. It makes me reflect on how important it is to love our spouses when we are with them and express that love without reserve.

Lastly, I am grateful for my job and all the wonderful people who are connected to it. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of a team whose sole mission is to support children and prepare them for life with all the varied opportunities and experiences implied in that mission. Education is wonderful and the people who support it and develop it are amazing.

During this past week, I have seen so many creative videos produced by students and teachers to show their thanks and appreciation for the blessings they have. It is inspiring and touching to view them. Our teachers and staff continue with love and gusto to do the right things for our kids despite the difficult times we are living through. Their devotion and dedication inspires me every day. I am thankful for my wonderful profession and for all the people connected to it.

I hope everyone can take the time to reflect on what they are thankful for despite the pandemic and all of the disruptions it has caused. Make sure to put safety first during this holiday period and I wish a happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

November 11, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

It has been an intense few days as we all kept an eye on Tropical Storm Eta as it headed straight for the Keys. I, along with Pat Lefere, our Executive Director of Operations and Planning and Jason Brown, Safety and Security Coordinator had been on regular Zoom meetings with Emergency Management Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The meetings help to coordinate our county’s response to storms and there are many participants, including mayors from all over the Keys along with the county manager, the Key West city manager, the Health Department, hospitals, law enforcement, the Navy, the National Weather Service and various other agencies. It’s a large group.

During the Saturday evening briefing, we decided to open some of our schools as shelters beginning on Sunday at noon. That’s always a challenge for us because School District administrators have to staff the shelters along with folks from the Health Department, Emergency Management, and law enforcement. It takes quite a lot of coordination. I always worry about people working the shelters because I know they need to do things to shore up their own homes way ahead of time before going to the shelters. I remember when I was the principal of Sugarloaf School and had to open it as a shelter. It always amazed me how people who show up have certain expectations about what will be available. Shelters are pretty bare bones, which is why Emergency Management always tells people to bring with them everything they will need.

At our 5:30 p.m. meeting on Sunday, it seemed Eta was heading for the lower Keys and had the potential to be a Category One Hurricane. I started to look at every available source of information: the National Weather Service, the Weather Channel, WeatherBug, and Max Tracker. I guess everyone has their favorites for tracking storms. When the expectations of hurricane conditions didn’t materialize in the lower Keys early Sunday night, I kept an eye on the forecast track as time passed; it began to look like the upper Keys might see some bad weather. I texted Laura Lietaert, the principal of Key Largo School and she said it was really blowing hard up there and the rain was coming down in sheets. As it turned out, Key Largo had a lot of downed limbs and downed wires and there was much more to clean up in that area.

I still thought Key West might get hit and I wanted to be awake if that happened. I started to nod off so I set my alarm for 3:00 a.m. and put my head down for a short nap. When I woke up, the forecast looked like Eta was moving away from us. I breathed a sigh of relief. I know we all did. I must say I am totally amazed at how efficient our Emergency Management team is – they rock. And everyone in our county should feel safe with them at the helm along with the whole storm team. Congratulations to all of them on a job well done.

I hope 2020 doesn’t have any additional challenges for us and we can move through the holiday season with attention to safety procedures at the forefront. We can’t lose focus on safety, because the virus is still with us and numbers in our community have been increasing. That being said, it certainly sounds like a vaccine is on the way, so hopefully we can look to the future with hope and look forward to a new year with good health and a concrete way to fight back against Covid-19 and all of the difficulties it has brought us.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

November 2, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

Human touch is such an important thing.  I have a picture of my late husband and me when we were young and our hands are intertwined.  I can still feel the way that felt and it was many years ago.  Of course, we held hands many more times – too numerous to count really, but I guess you always remember special times in certain ways and I remember that time with our hands intertwined.  We have been deprived of touch during Covid-19.  I know I long for a hearty handshake.  It made me feel connected to the person and confident we would have a successful partnership or relationship or whatever was called for.  Now we have no handshakes and definitely no hugs.  Poor us.  We have to learn new ways to communicate and show each other we care. 

I think now the “eyes” have it.  They have to say it all.  Sometimes I wonder if my eyes show how big I am smiling or if they show when I am upset or disturbed.  Maybe we need to hold up signs that say “Smiling”, or “Angry”, or “Thoughtful”, or “Sad”.  It’s kind of an interesting thing when you ponder it. 

I am sure teachers are feeling this even more than I am.  They really depend on facial expressions to communicate when students are being successful; when students need to slow down and practice harder; when they need to listen carefully, and so on.  This type of unspoken communication helps us to create connectedness; now, with only our eyes and voices to communicate with, we have to work even harder to be sure we connect on the right level and with the right message.

I know people are trying their very best to create some sense of normalcy in their lives and they long for all this to end.  It was so nice to have a little celebration over the last few days with kids and adults in costumes enjoying treats and the festivities that occur at this time of year.  I read and saw numerous suggestions for holding fun Halloween activities that were still safe for everyone.  Creativity always shines forth when people do things for one another.  And Halloween is an example.

I think the most important thing to remember right now is we are keeping each other safe by following the rules. It’s not just what you do for yourself that is important but what you do for the other person that really counts.   Wear your masks; keep six feet apart; wash your hands. By doing these things you are not only protecting yourself, but you’re protecting other people in your life and that counts for a lot. In fact, it counts the most.  

Good Luck with staying safe and connected.  Use your creativity and always know people are smiling behind those masks most of the time; at least I like to think they are.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

October 26, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

It’s funny how small things can make you feel better. If you just tackle one small thing that has been bothering you, the rewards are great. Clean a drawer that is difficult to close because you have too much stuffed in it. Clean out an overburdened pantry shelf filled with things you may never use. I have been doing things like this lately and it makes me feel instantly better. I think we are all looking for something to make us feel good. In the middle of a pandemic – I hope it’s the middle - sometimes happy feelings can be scarce.

One place I look to for a slightly better feeling is the Sunday comics in the newspaper. A little pandemic pet peeve for me is they don’t always make sense in our current reality. I really like it when the comics actually reflect what we’re going through. I guess it’s hard to update Peanuts with Charles Schultz no longer with us, but the others should certainly try. It does make you feel like we’re all in this together when the comics reflect the times.

We are working hard in the district to provide a quality educational program during the pandemic. Teachers are very aware students have been disengaged at times. I will have two teachers with me on my FaceBook Live session on Wednesday, Oct. 28th at 6:00 PM. They will be talking about ways to support students. It should be a great session and I am excited about getting their perspective on this important topic.

One of the things I know for sure is kids need a schedule. Particularly those students who are currently on an alternating school, only attending every other day. On the “B” day, when they are at home, make sure your student gets up at the normal time. Make sure they eat breakfast; then he or she should try to follow their normal school day schedule. If possible, have them do the class work for a particular class during the time that class normally meets in person. Don’t allow students to sleep all day and do all the work at night. If the student follows a regular schedule every day , he or she will feel that same sense of satisfaction with getting things done I mentioned above. They will be on top of their work rather than putting things off until the last minute. This disruption of our norms is an opportunity to reinforce life skills during a difficult time. We must grow and learn during difficult times and seize opportunities to do so wherever they present themselves.

I also know many students are working at outside jobs on their “B” day and I certainly understand the need for some of them to do this. Just remember, it is still important the student gets school work done on a daily basis.

We want all our students back in school when it is safe to do so and we working toward that goal every day. District-wide we are looking at all the ways we can support our students and their families and help them to be successful; each school is also making individual plans to serve students in any way they can.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

October 20, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

Covid-19 cases are unfortunately on the rise throughout the country and everyone is complaining of pandemic fatigue. Who knew such a thing would exist in our lives? But there it is looming over us - hopefully with an end in sight, but not for a while yet. These are the times that really test our mettle. We know safety precautions must stay in place and be vigilantly attended to, but what else can we do to bolster each other and help ourselves and others with the hand dealt to us all? I have started writing nice notes to people - at least two notes a day. This gives me an opportunity to both focus on relationships and tell people around me how much I value them. Words slip away, but a note can be reread and savored for at least a few days.

On the same topic, students would be really happy to receive words of encouragement from their teachers. I know both Google Classroom and Canvas have avenues for sharing thoughts with students on their work; these could also be used to offer an encouraging note.

I think communication has become more and more important as days pass and we have so little contact with others. If you are still adhering to the guidelines offered by health experts, you are probably spending more time at home with your immediate family and less time with neighbors and others. Board games can definitely fill the void when television and Netflix become tiresome. I spent hours with my granddaughter last summer playing Scrabble. It kept us happily engaged for a couple of hours each night. Scrabble presents just enough of a challenge to keep your mind active, but it is not so difficult you feel overwhelmed.

My favorite activity is reading. I have quite a list of books I plan to read. Currently, I am reading Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book, “Leadership in Turbulent Times.” She analyzes the leadership of four presidents and shows us how they recognized leadership qualities in themselves. It is a fascinating book.

Lastly, exercise can be a real energizer when you are looking for something to do. It’s so easy to tune in to a variety of programs on television or on the internet offering all different levels of exercise. Of course, riding your bike can be both safe and good for your heart and when you are out there pedaling, you can take off your mask. Just be sure to keep your distance from other riders you might meet. Taking a walk can also be beneficial; any form of movement is a healthy change, both for your body and for your mind.

I hope you have routines to beat pandemic fatigue. I think we’re going to need to rely on our creativity for a while yet to get through the fall and winter. We are all lucky to live here in the Keys, where fall and winter are actually pleasant, temperate times of the year and we are not stuck inside due to rain or snow. We have that to be thankful for.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

October 12, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

I really enjoy “wonderings” and “what-if’s” so I frequently pose “wonderings” and “what-ifs” to myself and to my staff.  One of my latest “what-if’s” is focused on this:  what if school was all about building relationships and not about testing?  What if our students really believed how they treat one another and how they treat their teachers was the most important thing at school? What if we took time every day to make sure everyone was all right;  they had enough sleep and enough to eat;  they weren’t afraid to talk about their feelings of happiness and sadness; they could enjoy esprit de corps with their classmates?  What if the teacher could encourage conversations and focus on students’ likes and preferences?  What if students could feel they were accepted and valued and teachers would feel their value as well?

I wonder if, once the “what if’s” were satisfied, would  learning would be much easier and better? Would students be engaged in their work because they see the value in it?

I believe they would see value because teachers would be able to make lessons relevant to students’ lives and interests.  I believe we would  find students would be energized by the possibility  of their success with their schoolwork and would be at their best because their emotional needs had been at least partially addressed.

 What if school were based on building relationships and once they were built we could begin to “Build our Learning Together” and “BOLT” ahead?

I am speaking to my teachers and staff, but also to everyone. If you believe relationships can make a difference, try this little experiment.  And I think this concept can be applied in many relationships outside of school as well as in a classroom. 

Work with a student (or a colleague, a subordinate, an employee) you think is least engaged in their work;  plan to spend no more than two minutes a day talking with that person. Find out what baseball team he or she likes, what he or she likes to do on the weekend, what their hobby is, what their pet’s name is?  Who is their favorite musical group?  Any subject that will begin to build a connection.  Talk to them, work at it, for ten days straight.  Experts say this simple activity completely changes a student’s perspective on learning.  I believe it can also carry over and help in other relationships as well. The resulting connection will reap rewards: more engagement, more commitment, and more interest. As far as students in particular are concerned, better grades.

Relationships are how we all work together every day. In school, in work, in society, in families. Try it and I think you will agree.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford


October 7, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

I am thrilled the Florida Department of Education has recognized us as an Academically High Performing School District. It’s a recognition all District Staff can be proud of and it represents a lot of hard work. Only 17 of 67 districts in Florida received this recognition. It was based on our 18-19 FSA results, our great financial audits of 18-19 and our class size compliance for 19-20. This recognition lasts for three years. All of us have been working very hard to manage all the different aspects of school life during Covid-19, it’s nice to get some good news in the midst of it.

As for our new teaching environment, many teachers are teaching students in the classroom and at home at the same time. Although this form of instruction is workable, it’s very challenging for the teacher who must keep both groups of students engaged and attend to the group in the classroom and those at home simultaneously. In classrooms where I have observed this concurrent teaching, the two groups compete for the teacher’s attention and he or she must respond quickly to address student needs. Hats off to the teachers who are using this method of instruction. This is only one form of instructional delivery, however. Other creative teachers have come up with many other methods to support students. It’s amazing to see the variety and types of lessons out there and the skills required to make them work.

As we approach the end of the first nine weeks, I hope teachers and parents are taking opportunities to discuss student progress. If a student is receiving a grade lower than “C”, it is a clear indication performance is not what it should be. Under such circumstances, I would recommend teacher, student, and parents have a sincere and open discussion on academic progress. There are definitely actions that can be taken to assist students who are having difficulties. It all depends on the teacher, but some possibilities would be: independent make-up work to improve grades, after school tutoring, supervised sessions with the teacher to complete make-up work, counseling with the school counselor or school social worker, or online tutoring programs. There are many other creative ways for students to improve their knowledge of content and their grades if they can work cooperatively with their teacher to do so.

We are doing a Facebook Live Session next Wednesday (October 14th) from 6 - 7 PM to discuss academic progress. My guests will be Rob Taylor, Reading Coordinator and Amy Stanton, Math Coordinator for the school district. Our facilitator will be Natallie Liz. Please join us for some tips on how to support your students. I am sure many teachers will be tuning in as they have in past Facebook Live events. They provide many resources during our conversations so everyone comes away feeling enriched. Hope to hear from you during the event with any questions you might have.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

September 27, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

I walked out of Principal Blake Fry’s office at Coral Shores High School to take a cell phone call this past week and found a seat on the Patio at school.  I sat at one of the picnic tables.  It was so beautiful.  A nice breeze was blowing and I thought how lucky we are to have such beautiful schools in Monroe County.  I really enjoyed seeing Coral Shores tribute to the graduating class of 2020. Each senior has a brick with their name on it.  I thought “Wow!” what a nice remembrance of having gone through such a disruptive time during what should have been our traditional graduation celebrations.  I think the class of 2020 will be grateful they are commemorated in such great style. 

I am really amazed at how each school in our district has developed a system for students to be safe.  It’s working so far.  I know we have moved into Phase 3 according to the Governor’s Reopening Plan.  But we still have a ways to go in our community.  We will eventually relax requirements regarding safety procedures in consultation with the Health Department.  We have been partners with them from the very beginning and I would not wander far afield from their recommendations.  I will definitely keep everyone posted as things change, but currently we are sticking with our plan as presented in the Guidebook for Safely Reopening Schools for the moderate spread of the virus. 

I am happy to say we have been designated an Academically High Performing School District based on our 2018-19 school grades, our 2018-19 financial audit reviews and our 2019-2020 class size compliance.  It is really nice to get this designation which extends for three years and allows us some latitude in documenting our programs for compliance purposes throughout the year.  Since we were mired in a lot of extra paperwork last year for compliance, this is great news.  Congratulations to all of our teachers and administrators for a job well done.  It’s nice to be recognized when you’ve done a great job. 

On another note, October is National Principals’ month.  Make sure to give your principal a socially distanced air hug sometime during the month.  They have been working really hard.  I don’t recall any of them telling me they had a summer vacation of any sort. 

It’s hard to believe the end of the first nine weeks is coming soon.  Please contact the school office if you need support with students getting back into the school groove.  We are available to help at all times.   Thank you all for all your support and patience during these trying times.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford 

September 18, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

I am very excited about the past week and the return to school. I have visited all the schools from Marathon south and I am visiting the Upper Keys Schools early next week. Everything seems to be going well with both students and teachers. It is very encouraging to see how well everyone is following the rules - those very important Covid-19 rules. Kids are wearing masks, staying socially distant and using good personal hygiene by washing hands frequently. The best thing is kids are really into being at school. They are applying themselves to the learning and seem to be doing very well. They seem just a little subdued but I think that’s because they have been away since March and they have to get used to school all over again. I hope we can continue to be safe, follow the rules and are successful at being in school. Only time will tell, but for the first week, I am very pleased.

Next week is Celebrate Freedom week. Students will be reciting the first lines of the Declaration of Independence in the morning, writing their own personal declarations and studying the Founding Fathers. I can’t think of a better way to get our school year underway. It is so important to understand and value our freedom. It will also be be “Start with Hello” week. We want to stem the tide of social isolation by focusing our efforts on being inclusive and the need for acceptance of all types of people. “Start with Hello” from the Sandy Hook Foundation encourages us to focus on these issues so we can help students be aware of how important it is to be encouraging and accepting of others. Please make this special at school and at home by talking to your kids about our freedoms and our need to be inclusive of everyone – it will make a difference in our kids’ lives to do so.

I have learned several important things over the last few months. One is people have had a very difficult time finding peace during the pandemic. They need lots of love and consideration when making decisions. Next, life must go on and we must find happiness where we can. Our lives have been totally disrupted but if we pay attention, there are still many happy moments; lastly, we need to have faith in life and in the future – even though things seem bleak, we can see the value in resilience and know that together we can get through whatever comes our way. Just think about it – we had made it back to school. It was a herculean task, but we did it!

Yours in education,
Terri Axford 


September 11, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

I attended the Orientation at KWHS Thursday morning for the Class of 2023. It was really inspiring. The incredible amount of energy and work that went into the presentation was evident. The auditorium was decorated with red and white balloons and a twinkly illuminated “Sophomore” sign lit up the stage. It was festive and happy in the room. The principal and assistant principals were warm and friendly with the kids. It was clear to me the students were happy to be back, but they were also quiet and subdued as they listened to the new rules they have to follow in this Covid-19 world.

The presentation centered on safety and what was going to be required to navigate school now we live in this different world. The KWHS administrative team showed excellent videos with students playing the major roles. In the videos, they explained how to sit safely at lunch, how to navigate the hallways, what social distancing looks like in the classroom. They explained the new mask rules and the need for frequent hand washing. It was very informative and helpful to hear this information so clearly stated and I was very proud of the work the school has done.

After watching the video, it suddenly hit me and I almost collapsed in tears. I was so sad for our kids and teachers who are going through this and having to deal with all these precautions. Let’s all pray for containment of this virus. Let’s all concentrate on practicing safety so we can finally put Covid 19 in the closet until such a time as we can conquer it with a vaccine. Let’s stay safe and help each other be safe. Let’s make sure our safety planning translates into safe action so we can continue to move forward.

I know all of our schools have held these wonderful orientations to prepare everyone for next week’s return to school and classroom learning. The level of care and concern expressed for both students and teachers has been outstanding. I want to thank everyone for all the work they have put into this week and these preparations. We will continue to work together to educate our students in the best way possible so we can Build our Learning Together as we move forward.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford 

 September 2, 2020

Dear Monroe County Teachers, Parents and Staff,

Many thanks to all. Especially to our wonderful teachers who volunteered to work with our vulnerable populations this week. We have about 750 students in our buildings if you include the staff daycares which are being held. What’s best about this is how happy it has made so many parents and students. In addition, it’s an opportunity to practice social distancing, mask wearing and the avoidance of crowded situations on campus.

I don’t have enough words in my vocabulary bag to say how much I admire our teachers who came back this week. They are meeting the needs of kids who were surely falling by the wayside in virtual instruction. Many students just don’t have the skills to be successful in the virtual environment. They want to do it, but can’t. God bless the parents who have tried to assist.

I heard about a lady today who is going to be able to go back to work because her child started school on Monday. She was facing eviction without any funds but was able to convince her landlord that now her child is back in school she can return to her job of cleaning houses. I was overjoyed to hear this news. I am certain she is not the only one in this dire situation.

I was also overjoyed to hear the United States Department of Agriculture has extended free lunches to students throughout Dec. 31st. This will make such a difference to us. We are still processing free and reduced lunch applications but this will be another form of assistance for all of our local families who are struggling, at least till January. We know how difficult it is for many parents to pay lunch bills when there has been so much loss of work and loss of housing since the Spring. So the children may enjoy our wonderful lunches and we hope this will help them be healthy and alert for their school work.

Next week, we will hold orientations to help all students adjust to new guidelines based on Covid-19. Contact your child’s school for current information on these orientations. I hear from principals throughout the district that the children attending this week are adhering to the new rules, wearing their masks, social distancing and washing hands frequently. I hope all our families will continue to be careful about following these rules so we all may remain safe and healthy. Thank you all.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford


August 21, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

This is a special tribute to our parents! Welcome to the 2020-21 School Year.

I am overwhelmed by the commitment our parents make to the education of our children. It’s truly a partnership and we could not educate students without you. Whether it’s making a special treat for the class when there is a celebration going on or bringing materials and supplies to support a special project MCSD parents are always there to support students and teachers.

You are not going to send your children off to school in the traditional sense at the start of this school year. You are, however, still sending them off as they move farther into the world each year. You are not getting new shoes for every kindergarten student to wear on the first day of school, but you are doing everything possible to make that kindergartener successful. You are not spending time in a special parent room where you get support from other parents because you don’t want to leave your little one at school. But you are sending them into new worlds of learning and excitement nonetheless.

Senior moms are not sending their seniors off for the last time to high school, but they are still hoping classes will be good, dreams will be dreamt and realized and happiness will exist in the academic and social world of high school. They also hope, just like kindergarten moms, that the kids will get along with each other, engage in learning and get really good grades.

It’s not a traditional start to the school year, but it is a start. Covid-19 has dashed many of our hopes and plans; it’s put us in harm's way; it has made us feel numb with pain and anxiety, but it hasn’t broken our spirit. We know if we keep doing the right things, we will eventually beat it back into submission.

A friend told me this morning she thinks it will take two years to get back to normal. I certainly hope that isn’t the case. I just want to get back to school – to see kids in the hallways and classrooms and to feel the excitement school brings to everyone. Unfortunately, until we are able to return safely, school will be virtual.

Virtual is an interesting word, isn’t it?. Does it mean full of virtue? No, it means we will learn via an electronic connection known as the internet. We will see each other and talk to each other, just not in the same space. We will grow and see many new and exciting things in our learning world. That’s what is wonderful about school. I think we all want to return as soon as it’s safe. I think we all agree on that. It’s the undercurrent beneath all we are doing, every day. We all want to be together again. We just need to be smart, wear our masks, wash our hands, stay socially distant and ask everyone we meet to do so too.



August 14, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

It’s hard to believe that we are going “live” with students in just a few days. I am so excited and I know that kids are too. Thanks to our amazing teachers who are preparing online lessons that are engaging and meet grade level standards for our kids. I have been meeting with grade level groups via Microsoft Teams all day today and I can see the happiness and excitement on the faces of teachers. It is so gratifying to be working with all of them.

We know this Covid-19 situation is not what we all want. In our heart of hearts we want to be back in classrooms working with kids. I’ve mentioned to each group that our theme is ”Building Our Learning Together” this year. We have to believe together we can all continue to learn and grow and be people we want to be.

I feel frustrated sometimes because all the hopes I had for 2020 have been dashed, but then I think about other generations who have suffered unbelievable blows to their way of doing things. I know the sacrifices my parents and theirs made during World War II. The entire country was bound together in its fight against Adolph Hitler. There was no reservation about that commitment. They worked in plants building planes and boats, munitions and supplies to fight the oppressor. Their food was rationed, among other day to day hardships and most tragic of all many sons and daughters were lost in the fight. Our situation is different and the same. We are fighting an invisible foe. We aren’t in total agreement on how that fight should be fought and we don’t know when it’s going to end. The ambiguity and confusion about a clear way forward and the fear that this may blight our lives forever is always in the background. It’s how we will remember 2020 for sure.

I am continually fortified by our partnership with the Health Department as we go forward. They have set clear metrics for us to reach in our quest to return to face-to-face instruction in school buildings and they know I put the health and safety of students, teachers and staff first. We are in complete agreement about this. The School Board is like-minded as well. Together we will make good decisions. As I mentioned earlier, I am so excited about beginning school on August 19th. I will visit Google classrooms as the year progresses to say hello to students and teachers. Remember to be patient and kind with parents, students and colleagues. We will always do better with those virtues in mind.

Yours in education,
Terri Axford

August 8, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I had a dream last night that my husband and I were engaged in a very deep conversation and we were talking about how important it is to know and love a soulmate. We were together talking for quite a while then he kissed me lightly on the cheek and left with a promise to meet me again. I woke up feeling great and renewed. Many of you know my husband passed away in January last year. When my husband was alive, I had no need of dreams; he was my reality and we were very happy. Nonetheless, I had the dream and it has made me revisit the thought, love is the only thing that really matters in life. And love of family and friends is the greatest love and returns as much as it takes and more.

Maybe I was kind of set up for the dream because of my exercise program. I do exercise everyday using the Miranda Esmond White method. Last week she did a live session that made me tear up as I went through it. She said form your arms to encircle a large ball and embrace it as if it is the world, the world which has so much grief and suffering now. Embrace the world and pull in to your heart. Extend your arms now and welcome the world to you and comfort it and cherish it with all the sorrow and sadness in it, be tender with it and love it. I thought how beautiful and wonderful it is when we combine imagery and movement, how much it lifts you and makes you feel better.

Be kind to yourselves during this time and this will allow you to show the love to others you need to show and that love will be returned tenfold.

I attended the New and Beginning Teacher Orientation on Wednesday. It was really great to be with them and see the excitement on their faces which came through even though we were meeting virtually. It’s really difficult to learn all the ins and outs of a new school district when you can actually go to meet people and ask questions, but even more of a challenge when everything is done virtually. Kudos to new teachers for joining our team. We all have to remember to support them as much as possible. Also I would like to thank the HR team for putting everything together for the orientation. These folks are Amy Flaherty, Jerian Winn and Harry Russell, who leads the department, as well as Rebecca Colon, Katherine Yarro and Daniella DeLuca. The New and Beginning teachers enjoyed a prize drawing with 31 prizes donated by local merchants. What a great way to welcome our new teachers. A complete list of donations is available on our website.

One thing is clear at this point in our progress toward being with students. We need to communicate with families. Give students their schedules and make them feel a part of something important. Explain how virtual learning is going to work. I discussed some of our plans for virtual instruction with a friend and she said “that’s not going to work. The parents will have to be there to make the kids do it. And the parents need to go to work and take care of their other kids.” I know that’s true. But when it comes to learning, I hope our lessons will be so interesting kids will be as addicted to them as they are to video games. We will need to wait to see if we can create the kind of interest that will keep them engaged all day. We are certainly going to make it our goal. I certainly hope teachers will prepare their lessons with all their creativity and expertise and kids will respond to them beautifully.

So many teachers contacted me after my welcome greeting to them. They shared thoughts with me on getting back into classrooms on Thursday and their hopes and plans for a successful school year. I am so grateful for all of our teachers and staff and I believe we can “Build our Learning Together” this year and BOLT ahead to many successes in the future. (More about that next time).

Yours in education,

Terri Axford


August 1, 2020
Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I just had lunch with United Teachers of Monroe (UTM) President Holly Hummel-Gorman today. She and I go back many years and have forged a great relationship dealing with many different aspects of our educational lives. Most recently we have worked together on the EPIC committee which addresses our Teacher Evaluation System. The best thing about Holly and me is we respect each other totally and value each other’s opinion highly. I know where her heart is and likewise she understands and knows mine. We talked of how difficult our current situation is, but we know with our strong partnership we can do what’s best for our students, teachers and staff as we move through these times. One of the best things about moving into the Superintendency now is I have forged bonds with so many people in our system over the years and look forward to forming new ones in the future. As Oprah says, one thing I know for sure is that we all need each other during this time and working together is going to be critical. Relationships built over the years with trust and respect at the core really matter at all times, but especially now!

During our Facebook Live session on Thursday it was great to see how many people took the time to join us to ask questions and to interact with the panel. I think we are going to continue to offer these opportunities to the community, which includes all of our families as well as teachers and staff. I plan to meet with the teachers in each grade level throughout the district during our pre planning days. I hope we can discuss any concerns they may have and set some goals for the school year. I think being forced to communicate on a virtual platform has changed the way we think about getting together for conversations and meetings. With the long distances we have to travel in the Keys, it is certainly nice to be able to meet with the folks in Key Largo via Microsoft teams rather than drive 106 miles. I am sure I would much rather see people in person but Covid-19 has certainly taught us there are other viable options to accomplish meetings which work especially in our geographic area.

I saw an article in the New York Times about a school in Indiana which started with live instruction only to have to close its doors immediately because of virus cases. Although our decision was difficult to make, I think providing consistent virtual instruction is better than the disruption caused by starting and stopping which is what our health department feared would happen. Picture all the tears and sadness kids would feel being told they can’t be with their teachers and friends once again. But we need to keep in the forefront of our minds and always in our hearts that we want to get back to our classrooms in our schools as soon as it is safe to do so.

With all that said, thank you all for everything you do. We have the greatest teachers and staff in the state and I am thankful every day for all of them as well as for all our great parents and students!

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

July 29, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I am writing this after the announcement that we are going to Virtual Instruction for the first four weeks of school. I am heartbroken that we cannot return to face to face instruction at this time. I am reading comments from parents on Facebook and my heart goes out to them. This is so unfair. Parents, need to work, kids need to go back to school and not being able to do that sends a cataclysm of uncertainty through our entire society. It’s like a giant tsunami overwhelming us and forcing us to once again regroup and try to move forward in uncertain times.

I am very much attuned to what parents are saying and I can only imagine the heartbreak that students are experiencing of once again being deprived of their friends and teachers face to face. There’s one promise that I can make and I know teachers are behind me 100%. We will do better with virtual instruction over the next four weeks. Teachers are going to have more synchronous classes with students interacting in real time with students. Students are going to be required to show that they are in attendance several times throughout the day. Grades are going to be calculated as in a normal school year and everything that students do is going to matter. We are going to give parents the support that they need to be an advocate for good learning practices in their homes. They are not going to need to be the teacher now. Teachers are going to be interacting virtually with students much more. Because of this, students should be more engaged and learn more.

The only way that we can beat this virus is to tamp down its spread. We are really committed people in the Keys. We’ve survived hurricanes and financial crises. We can do this. We need to keep our families safe by following all the rules made clear by the CDC and our local health department: avoid crowded areas, avoid close contact, and avoid small spaces with little ventilation. We need to hand wash frequently and not touch our faces, and wear our masks. These practices kept the spread in Monroe County low through the spring. Let’s change the trajectory by being even more cautious moving forward, not less so. Everyone is tired of all these precautions but they work. Let’s keep in mind what we know we can do to control our lives and practice these good habits moving forward with greater zeal.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

July 25, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

I have been hosting kids in my granddaughter’s pod here at my house. A pod is what I’ve learned you call a group of kids whose families are following the same rules on social distancing etc as you are. She lives in North Carolina and has been with me for a month. Her family lives in the country about ten miles out of town; both of her parents work crazy hours so it’s hard to coordinate play dates for her. She has been visiting me for years and has developed a friend base with the children of several families that I am friends with here. Four girls have been spending their time together this summer. Isabella’s Mom is coming to get her this week. Isabella’s not going back to school on schedule; they’re going virtual instead. Her Mom hasn’t told her yet, but Hillsborough County Schools announced this week that they are not going back to face to face instruction for at least four weeks. Her mother didn’t want to break the news to her yet and I feel so worried and upset for her. Kids need each other not only for socialization but for support and I am sad to send her back to North Carolina where she will be isolated again.

This is so difficult on so many fronts. But while she’s been here, we have had fun. Today, my friend Rita came over and chatted with Ciera and Isabella, two of the friends in that foursome. We were talking about cheerleading and discussing going through the stages of gaining cheerleading prowess. What a great activity for kids! It’s so healthy; promotes not only physical health but also teamwork, and is generally character building. My friend was a cheerleader in college and as soon as the discussion moved in that direction, she got up and showed the girls some cheerleading moves. I thought, “oh my goodness, look at her go!” I was amazed. The real lesson in this story is that these athletic experiences formed in adolescence and early adulthood last all of our lives and we need to support and encourage our students to get these opportunities through sports. We are all anxious to get back to our athletic programs and principals and athletic directors are working on these plans now.

We are also working with teachers this week and next week to put in place CDC guidelines which appear in the MCSD Guidebook to Safely Reopening Schools in reference to returning to school. We are asking our principals to let us know where there are issues that can’t be resolved. It’s a long and tedious process which involves organizing classrooms for social distancing, planning movement in hallways, parent drop offs and pick-up and all the logistical things that are involved in getting to and from school.

Our principals have begun setting up meetings of various types for parents, teachers and staff. These meetings are for the purpose of discussing concerns about returning to school. I think once everyone hears in detail what safety practices are being put in place, a safe return to school will not seem as impossible as it does to some people right now. No matter what happens, we will have to return to a face-to-face environment at some point.

We are in the process of making a final decision about what our return to school will look like in August. I know many of you are waiting for this decision before making important decisions of your own. Just know this has not been an easy process and has taken a lot of consultation and hard work. Please be patient just a little while longer.

Yours in education,

Terri Axford

July 21, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,
I have a friend who dredges for gold. It is a hopeful act. Picture looking at all the rocks and sludge that move through the dredge to find those wonderful little golden particles that suggest a bigger supply awaits. The excitement, the thrill must be palpable. I am sure there is lots of science and technique involved, but it is hopeful nevertheless. Face-to-face schooling is a hopeful act as well. And we have been deprived of it since last spring.

Students miss their friends, teachers miss their classes, and parents miss the organization school brings to family life. We all miss the hopefulness that comes from learning new things and understanding new possibilities, and what those possibilities may represent in the future.

Learning is our goal and our ambition. Teachers are yearning to do what they do best. We all want that. We must celebrate our hopefulness and protect it as we move toward another academic year. As Emily Dickinson wrote in her poem, Hope is a Thing with Feathers, “Hope perches in the soul and sings a tune without the words and never stops at all.” We need to keep hope alive at this time and listen to its tune. Hope that a cure for the virus will come soon enough, hope that our friends and loved ones are kept safe and hope that our schoolrooms will open as soon as it is possible to do so safely.

My granddaughter and I were having a Scrabble game last night and “hope” came up on the Scrabble Board which made me think of all the above. She did not win the game. I was rooting for her the whole time, but the letters just did not come her way. I hope she wins tonight. Scrabble is so interesting that an hour or two goes by very quickly. So many things that we focus on in school make their way to the Scrabble Board; mathematics, strategy, of course word knowledge, but I think the thing that is also there is - hope that you will get the right letter, hope that you can make the word with the highest points, hope that you can feel success.

So as we move to the future, let’s not ever forget how much we have learned to value our teachers and classrooms during this period of waiting to get back. We take for granted what is always there, what seems unequivocally our right, but this pandemic has taught us that our expectations can be circumvented and our lives completely upset. Still we have to protect our hope that this will be over and hopeful acts in the classroom will, once again, continue to flourish as will our students.

Yours in Education,
Terri Axford


July 17, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,
I had the pleasure of being on a Facebook Live show with Louie C. Rock in Key West last Tuesday evening.  The program centered on a Safe Return to School in August and many parents and teachers participated by texting questions and thoughts about our current situation.  As everyone knows, we are in the same boat as cities and towns throughout the country in working with the Health Department to analyze the status of the virus spread to make a decision about reopening.  It was an hour long show and I wore a mask.  At least I tried to wear it and keep it where it was supposed to be.  Talking while wearing a mask is a challenge as many of you already know, but talking for an hour is positively demanding.  At one point, one of the people watching texted, “Cover your nose.”  I was trying but the mask kept moving around uncontrollably with the vibration of my jaw.  It seemed to have a life of its own.    Anyway, all I could think about was teachers delivering instruction in the mask.  I learned something for sure:  not every mask is right for every person and you really have to work at getting the right one.  The next day, if they watched the show, I guess people felt sorry for me, because everyone brought me a mask.  Thank you to all my friends who brought me a mask and I will try to do better next time.

We met with Principals this morning to discuss the site teams who are working on implementing all the guidelines in the MCSD Safely Reopening Schools Guidebook to get buildings ready for the return of students.  The teams are arranging furniture and figuring out how to utilize all spaces to keep social distancing and other safety requirements in place.  I want to thank them so much for their hard work

The Back to School Task Force met again this week and they were updated on the FAQ’s, General Procedures and Specific Classroom Procedures developed by Erin Williams and a team of teachers.  Harry Russell worked with his team to create Return to Play Guideline for Athletics, Beryl Morgan prepared procedures for Daycare, Dr. Herrin added to the section on Academics to reflect the DOE’s Executive Order regarding return to school, and Kristen Condella updated the Distance Learning section with further details on the delivery of virtual instruction and the importance of keeping a digital presence in every classroom along with face to face instruction.    Now, we are updating the plan with the input from the community and staff members who contributed suggestions on the website.

And so things keep rolling along.  I am hopeful because we have such amazing teachers working on school teams to make things as safe as possible in each building in our district despite all the ambiguity and uncertainty that we face ahead.  

Here’s the link to the Face Book Live show in case you want to see my prowess with a mask. LOL.

Yours in Education,
Terri Axford


July 13, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

In a period of uncertainty, everyone wants some aspect of certainty to prevail in their lives. One aspect of certainty for me is the excellence of the teaching staff in Monroe County.  Our teachers are constantly looking for new ways to engage students in their learning and to do that, they know how important it is to deal with the whole child.  Not just their minds are important, but students’ emotions and feelings as well.  We know that our kids have been suffering in their time way from school.  Their ability to relate to all of this has been really challenged.  My son was telling me about a co-worker of his who died of Covid-19 at 41.  We were lamenting together and then I realized that my 12-year-old granddaughter was privy to that whole conversation.  How terrible for a youngster to have to embrace on a daily basis the awful truth about this illness.  Our poor children need us so much at times like these and that is why I hope that we will be able to return to face to face instruction in sometime soon.
That remains to be seen based on the spread of the virus and I wish I could predict or know what that is going to be.  But I don’t know.  I do have two certainties to cling to as stated above:  The excellence of our staff and knowing that kids need us.
If I had a magic wand, I would definitely wave it with all my might to reduce the uncertainties that we face, but unfortunately I don’t.  In the meantime, we have teams of teachers and Principals working through the next three weeks to look at every classroom in our buildings to apply all the social distancing and hygiene rules to make our buildings safe for teachers and kids.  The safety of both of those groups is the most important thing to us going forward.  Hats off to those teams.  I know that we all will appreciate their work.
We were supposed to start our Boost Program this week which would have been a great opportunity not only to see our little ones (students in gradesK-3 were invited to attend on an individual basis) but to implement the best practices for safety in our schools.  Plans changed based on Health Department recommendation.  It’s good to know that they are going to make decisions based on safety and not on a political agenda.  That makes me feel very supported and safe.  I hope you can feel that way too.  However, we will go back to school at some time hopefully in the near future and our job is to work together to figure out how to make our buildings as safe as possible in preparation for that.  Instead of throwing rocks at people who are trying to figure out safe practices, let’s all join in and help with the process.
Yours in education,
Terri Axford


July 12, 2020

Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,

As I write this on Sunday morning, July 12, we have cancelled our in-person Boost Program that was supposed to open tomorrow.  We will continue virtually, if we have parents who are interested, but I am hearing already that for many that’s not an option they wish to take.  Beyond that however, I would like to thank all the teachers throughout the Keys who participated in our training last Friday.   We spent the entire morning on Friday talking about how to ensure safety for kids and staff during the program.  Sarah Adams put together an excellent slide show that specified best practices for safety in a Covid-19 world and then school teams discussed each area before coming back to the whole group to discuss their thoughts and concerns.  Sarah did a masterful job of coordinating training in a virtual world, a place we have all become almost too familiar with.  I think we were headed in a great direction in being prepared to work with our youngest students as the focal point.  It would have been really fun to see the kids again and to hear their voices filled with excitement and enthusiasm.  Unfortunately, the rise in cases in Monroe County, particularly in those under the age of twenty, created enough concern for Health Department officials that we were unable to begin in-person instruction.
Our Work on the Back to School Task Force and in the school buildings with teams creating social distancing scenarios, traffic patterns, other safety measures and practices continues.  Beyond a doubt, we need to continue to try to be ready for in person instruction.  I know that you are feeling the same frustration that I am with the uncertainty about what is right in this situation, but together, we will succeed.  And if in-person instruction is not possible, I think that we can deliver great professional development that inspires us to make the online world, more engaging, more accessible for all and an inspiring experience for our learners until we can see them again.  
We do not know what August holds for us yet, but we will continue to make the best decisions for our students and teachers and our partners in the Health Department, who know and understand what we are dealing with in this pandemic, are critical to our success moving forward.
Yours in Education
Terri Axford

July 9th, 2020
Dear School District Staff, Students, Families and Friends,
We are certainly living in turbulent times that require all of our patience and fortitude to deal with. From the social isolation that we feel because of social distancing and staying at home, to the mask requirements that cause us to hide our smiles from one another, we are being called upon to find happiness and some kind of normalcy in a new era. I am a very optimistic person so I have had to hold close that optimism for a while now. I hope that you too have a reserve of optimism or some aspect of resiliency that you can rely on in these times as well.
I have had the great good fortune of working throughout this summer with an amazing Back to School Task Force. They have embraced the work and have never faltered in their support of students and staff. The main focus of our work has been on student and staff safety and we are still gathering input and working on plans to make our return to school as safe as possible.
One thing that we know for sure is that our County Health Department is very professional, highly competent and responsive to our needs. Their role in deciding whether a return to school will be possible based on the spread of the virus is essential to us. They have the absolute final word on whether a return is feasible or not. Unfortunately, the real force that controls everything right now is Covid-19. All we can do is make plans that thwart the virus and reduce the risk as much as possible. We are absolutely committed to doing that.
I will be posting on this blog with regularity so please check it out. Thanks.
I hope that everyone’s summer is holding some bright spots and that you can keep a happy, positive outlook as much as possible. If we all try to do hat, things can only get better.
Yours in education,
Terri Axford

1 comment:

  1. Please stop requiring children to wear masks. Socially this is abusive. The science does not support this action.

    ReplyDelete

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