In years past I have written before the last day of school – I just haven’t been able to get to it before now! My big takeaway for this year is that nothing ever slows down. I remember being a junior high assistant principal in the mid-1990s and saying to my principal on the first day of school, “see you in June.” It has been that kind of year for me, and quite likely for all of you as well.
Perhaps I’m a bit nostalgic today, but when I became superintendent 8 school years ago, I had more hair, it was darker, my back didn’t hurt when I got up in the morning and I was running marathons. So that has changed, but today I have children who are married and three grandchildren (with a fourth on the way). On the professional side, I have dear colleagues with whom I work regularly and I’ve had the opportunity to visit all of our schools many times, shake the hands of thousands of our employees (and thank them for their work) and look into the faces of tens of thousands of students. As many of you have seen, when I visit classrooms I like to ask the kids about the year they will graduate from high school and then challenge them to commit to attend and complete college. In all sincerity, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had with you, from the exciting to the tragic, for a head of fuller, darker hair. Not even for a back I don’t have to stretch every morning. I’m even grateful to colleagues who lovingly tell me that my physical condition will only get worse with time…
While some of my own physical metrics may trend down, I am so heartened by metrics in our district that are trending up. Everything from high school graduation rates to elementary growth percentiles. Given our ever-changing demographics, staying even is already a success, but through your efforts we’re doing better than staying even. I could not be more proud.
Ours is a business where the thanks are sometimes delayed by decades, until some barely recognizable adult wanders in to our building or classroom, seeks us out and thanks us for changing their lives. What a genuine reward. Rather than have you wait for years, I want, right now, to thank you for your exhaustive and exhausting efforts this year. There is no greater profession than ours, whether in the classroom or in support of the classroom. I am sincerely grateful to all of you.
So, regardless of the length of your contract, 9-month, 10-month or longer, take some time to recharge over the summer. Play with the grandkids (or comb your full head of dark hair). Set aside the challenges and don’t think about work at all (except for those of us with 12-month contracts – we do need to keep thinking about work but maybe in planning mode rather than reactive mode). In August start daydreaming about the ideals that prompted you to work in education in the first place. Then whether you drive bus, prepare lunches, teach children or support in other ways; when the proverbial bell rings in the fall, jump back into the harness, or into the saddle (or whatever metaphor works best for you) and welcome the kids back to a great school year with the best teachers and support staff in the state and beyond.
I truly thank each and every one of you for all you do!