County judge, superintendent look back on response to the pandemic

County judge, superintendent look back on response to the pandemic

 

VICTORIA, Texas – It’s been a long year with the pandemic and it’s still not over, we take a look back at how the county and school district responded to the worldwide crisis.

Steps were taken early on by local authorities but as the pandemic progressed state orders trumped local ones. 

“But we have been concentrating on being a resource of information and guidance,” said Victoria County Judge Ben Zeller.

When the pandemic was declared in March, Victoria I.S.D. superintendent Quintin Shepherd says he was in awe of the power of the community.

“And how strong we could be together when we worked together through this pandemic,” Shepherd said.

Zeller said a similar sense of unity formed between local government entities. 

“Relationship with the city and the county, our ability to work together is stronger now than at any point previously,” Zeller said.

But not everything has been smooth sailing, working to secure funding granted by the federal government through the state channels has been difficult. 

“In hindsight there are always things that can be improved upon, early on taking some of those warning signs, approaching them a little more proactively in hindsight,” Zeller said.

Working to secure funding granted by the federal government through the state channels has been difficult. 

“The dollars that were allocated to the school districts from the federal level, didn’t all make it to the school district, as an example for we were able to capture 80 percent of the funding due to us but that remaining 20 percent was held by the state,” Shepherd said.

Through it at all, from having to abruptly end the school year in the spring to waiting on personal protective gear to arrive, there have been victories for the Victoria school district.

“The first was in our overall pivot to remote learning. Ten to 25 percent of students have left public education on average, you may wonder how are things it looks like for V.I.S.D., we’re just barely over 2 percent and so by a wide, wide margin, we’ve outperformed a national average in keeping our students in public education,” Shepherd said. “When March came and we to had to reorient our priorities in a hurry obviously Priority No. 1 was safety and Priority No. 2 very quickly became let’s make sure everyone is fed so that we can take one worry off the plates of our parents and so I’m glad we were able to do that continuing through this summer and continuing into this year.”

Moving forward Zeller said although everyone is tired of COVID-19 they are optimistic about the future. 

“There are things from Harvey that we saw a need to improve upon that we did in this pandemic, communication to the public. It’s an exciting time here in Victoria and I’m very optimistic about the year that lies ahead and the things we accomplished in 2020 in spite of COVID,” Zeller said.

“For students, there is a life long lesson in here, don’t pay attention when folks talk about gaps in learning, you don’t have any gaps in learning, you have unfinished learning, our job is to help support you and your job is work with us to be successful and don’t worry about it, because we’ve got this,” Shepherd said.