In the wake of one of the worst public health crises in recent history, Flint Public Schools in Michigan is starting to see the beginning of a turnaround.
That’s thanks in no small part to Superintendent Bilal Tawwab, according to a recent video report from Education Week and the PBS NewsHour.
Two years ago, after Michigan officials switched to a new, cheaper water supply for the city’s drinking water, pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha discovered that the percentage of children with elevated levels of lead in their blood had nearly doubled.
The discovery touched off a crisis throughout the city of Flint and especially in its schools. Despite pushback from state officials against Hanna-Attisha’s research, Tawwab decided to switch all of Flint’s school drinking water to bottled water.
Since the initial discovery, Tawwab and the Flint school community have been dealing with the effects of the poisoned water while also working to push Flint’s schools, and its students, forward.
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But that takes a community effort, Tawwab says:
“It starts with a leader who is willing to collaborate to bring everyone to the table. You can’t go in as the leader feeling you have all of the answers. No, you don’t want that. You want folks to come in and be able to collaborate, and come up with the solution together.”
That solution includes partnering with government agencies and philanthropic groups to supply students with lead-mitigating foods and bottled water. It also means increasing the number of behavioral specialists in schools who can help students deal with the effects of lead on concentration and personality.
And, though Flint teachers say they have already seen changes in their students due to lead poisoning, and experts say more challenges are sure to come, Tawwab is working to ensure that is not an excuse for student failure.
Before the Flint water crisis, area schools were already dealing with other crises, including budget shortfalls and enrollment declines. But, enrollment has recently started to increase, along with graduation rates and test scores.
However slight these increases, Tawwab and his team see this as a sign of hope that their collaborative approach to dealing with crises is working.
For more, check out the full video report below:
How does your school or district use collaboration to overcome crises? Tell us in the comments.