Much as I think this phrase has been overused, these are unprecedented times. In addition to the terrible cost of human lives, with 30 million people now seeking unemployment across the United States, the economic and fiscal impact of this virus may end up being more devastating than the “Great Recession” of the late 2000s. COVID-19 is affecting our health, our businesses, our friends and family, and even our schools.
As a six-year member of the Rutherford County School Board, the fourth largest school district in Tennessee, I am deeply concerned about the financial impact this situation will have on our county, and certainly on our school system. Will we be able to pay for the most critical needs of our school system, much less the frills or the new school land and construction? We don’t yet fully understand how this will affect the tax base this year or next.
In this difficult time, I wanted to share a very personal story with our community. It’s a story that is still hard to discuss, but one I believe gives me a unique perspective, understanding and wisdom to better help our great school system navigate the difficult period ahead.
In 2008, in the middle of our country’s greatest recession since the 1930s, with millions of Americans losing their jobs, their savings, and their retirement plans, there was an estimated seven million houses forced into foreclosure. During that “Great Recession,” I too lost my job of almost 20 years when my company was sold, and the management team was not retained.
To make things worse, while I was still searching for a job, my husband Scott lost his job as well. We were emotionally and financially devastated. When we finally found other jobs, they paid less than half of what we’d earned previously. Like all the other Americans during that period of unemployment, we used up most of our savings and investments (that had been cut in half because of the market crash), but even after cutting every corner we could think of for nearly four years, our home was foreclosed on in 2012 because we didn’t have a penny more to give.
As I look back on this terrible time in our lives, I realize that the experience strengthened us. It strengthened our marriage, it strengthened our family, and most importantly it strengthened our walk with God. Having walked through that crisis of the “Great Recession,” I learned how to overcome tremendous adversity and hardship.
This is life experience and wisdom I will lean on as I try to help our school system right now. We don’t know what the future holds with the economy crushed in an unprecedented way, but now more than ever, we need to focus on wise fiscal decisions, only necessary expenditures and steel ourselves for the tough decisions on the horizon.
I want to make sure our community and parents know they have someone in their corner who has survived the trying times. We all want the best for our kids, and right now one the best things we can teach them is to be leaders who focus on our needs before our wants, how to prioritize what is most important, and how to support those who need us in these difficult days. Through these upcoming months, I am making a commitment to our students, our parents, our teachers and my peers–having experienced the lowest of times, you can count on me. I will not panic. I will not waiver, but I will make every decision with our long-term success in mind. Sometimes that will require saying “no” to our wants so we can best protect our needs, but every step of the way you can count on me for calm through the storm.
Respectfully, Lisa W Moore
Rutherford County School Board