Welcome to the latest Superintendent Snapshot. To submit a question, send an email to email@example.com
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!
Earlier this week someone asked me how the district is doing and I replied that I thought we’d gotten off to a remarkably smooth start. Then I remembered that it was mid-December. I mentioned this at home, that it seemed that the year is just flying by. My children suggested with straight faces that they have heard that old people think time passes more quickly each year.
My disrespectful children’s comments about my age notwithstanding, the first half of this year seems to have gone quickly but also eventfully. I am excited about the long-range facilities master plan and the bond that was approved by Granite voters last month – architects are already working on the high school rebuilds, and remodels and rebuilds for multiple other schools are kicking off as well. I really believe that the plan is a solid one for the next couple of decades, shortly falling into a cadence of a new elementary a year, a new junior high every four years and a new high school every eight. Additionally, schools will have a mid-life cycle remodel. This will ensure great learning and working conditions for our kids and employees long into the future. I’m grateful to our board of education for taking the time to develop the plan and for having the gumption to put it in front of the voters. I’m grateful to the voters for supporting the plan and thereby supporting all of us.
Another threshold our district crossed this year has to do with poverty. More than 60% of our kids qualify for free lunch. All of you are noting the impact this has on our work. Many of our elementary schools and even some junior highs have washers and dryers in the offices and kids line up to throw in dirty clothes and grab the clothes washed for them the previous day. Bless some soul, probably a secretary, who does the laundry every day. This is of course just one example but it begs the question: Is this our job? No way. But if we don’t do it, no one will. I am so grateful for all of you, pulling for these kids – some of whom seem to be fighting us the whole way. Very few solutions will fix every challenge, and I know our behavior and intervention efforts won’t solve everything, but I refuse to not do what we can do because we can’t do everything. Again, I am so grateful for your efforts and thoughtful suggestions.
I want to share a thought with you. More than 30 years ago I announced to my family that I was going to be a teacher. My dad, who was more than 25 years into his own education career, opened his mouth to say something, closed it again and then put his arm around my shoulders and told me that he was proud of me. He went on to say that there is no nobler profession than education and absolutely no more important profession than education. I used to wonder what thoughts were forming in his mind when he first opened his mouth. I say I used to wonder because three of my kids and counting are either teaching already or in school to become teachers. It runs through my mind how difficult the challenges are they will face over the course of their respective careers. Challenges far beyond how to teach this child or group of children how to master a particular math objective. But I don’t say that to them, I talk with them about the role teachers play in sustaining our society and very literally shaping the future. I tell them that there is no nobler nor more important profession than education. There are no more crucial people in our communities than teachers and those who support teachers so they can practice their profession. I believe this with all my heart, I teach it to my own kids, and I honor all of you for being who you are and doing what you do. If a team effort was ever needed, it is now. To all of you, whether you’ve been with us for six months or more than thirty years, I know you have other options, I thank you for choosing Granite. I truly believe we have the best team ever.
As many of you know, in the Bates home we celebrate Christmas, so, speaking personally and from my home to yours, Merry Christmas. To all of you, however you recognize the holidays or this upcoming break, I wish you peace and an opportunity to hold your loved ones close.
As a combat engineer, my basic and advanced individual training took 18 weeks in the spring and summer of 1989. People had told me what it would be like so I kind of knew on a cognitive level. But about three days in, the drill sergeants had us ramped up to an outrageous level of stress that didn’t ever seem to let up – although with time we got somewhat used to it. Then all of a sudden, it was graduation and we were bussed off to the airport and home. While in the middle of it, it had seemed that it would never end, but flying away from Fort Leonard Wood, in a surreal way it seemed as though we had arrived only the day before. One thing was certain however, I’d made lots of new friends and, in large part, it was because of friends that we’d all made it through successfully.
For me at least, this 2016-17 school year was much like that. We spent quite a lot of time last summer planning for the year and then suddenly it was upon us – bowling us over and throwing curveballs that called for hurried and awkward adjustments to our best laid plans. In the middle of it, there seemed to be no end in sight. Lots of local, national and international events have kept us wound tight (that refers to the olden days when watches were mechanical and wound up by hand for those of you who don’t know). I’m confidant everyone has their own collection of memorable events and crises from this year. And suddenly we’re just hours from the end. One thing is certain, it is in large part because of our friends and colleagues that we’ve made it through successfully. Please know that friends and colleagues feel the same about every one of you – had you not been there doing your part and more, it would have been a much more difficult trip.
I’m profoundly grateful for all of you, pulling at your respective ropes and encouraging one another with helping hands, kind words and example. And we haven’t even started talking about our work with the kids! By most, if not all measures, we’ve improved over past years. This is true both in the aggregate and for individuals. I visited almost every school this year and talked with each principal for nearly an hour about their schools and the efforts of their folks. I could not be more proud. I thank you sincerely.
With this final charge through Friday (I hope no one is counting metaphors and mixed metaphors), I know everyone is staying at the top of their game. For those who get a break over the summer, I wish you a relaxing and rejuvenating time. For those who have been gearing up for a great summer push in the absence of kids and others, I wish you all maximum productivity and minimal frustration. For those of us who have a few weeks to plan for next year, as opposed to the reactive reality of the school year itself, I wish clear minds and collaboration.
Again, I thank you all, I couldn’t be more proud or grateful to be on this team with you – see you next year!