I routinely tell people that our school division’s size is one of its greatest strengths. We are large enough to provide terrific opportunities and support for our students, yet small enough to be in a position to adapt and innovate. Perhaps most importantly, we are large enough to enhance the quality of life in our community and yet small enough to know and care for each other.
Many of you know that, as the son of a small business owner, people in my small town growing up expected me to major in business, but that I was prompted to answer the call to teach because of my experiences in scouting. The Scout Oath begins with, “On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.” My faith, my family, this community and all who serve Salem’s children are profoundly important to me. I am committed to doing my best and thankful to serve in an organization with similarly committed people.
In addition to my values, scouting has shaped me in many other ways. Currently, I am training along with the rest of a “crew” to backpack for 10 days this summer. Backpacking requires planning and preparation. It can be physically challenging, but is also rich with excitement and provides abundant personal gratification. Hiking usually leads to an exciting place so, full of anticipation; you push yourself to arrive in time to enjoy what awaits you. Sometimes the trail is difficult, but you keep pushing on.
Along the way, trail markers inform and guide you. Sometimes markers are hard to find, trails become narrow, and you have to rely on your map, compass, and fellow hikers. No matter how difficult the journey, there is an inner joy and a sense of fulfillment when you arrive, even when you know you will face new challenges the very next day.
Life within an organization such as a school system is not all that different from a hike. We are on a journey, and the journey is rarely easy. There will be difficult climbs that will result in fatigue and perhaps even sore feet or muscles. There are times when the trail markers will be difficult to find and we will wonder if it’s worth soldiering on.
The journey’s ultimate value has a direct relationship to the destination. Is a steep hike over dangerous rocks and through thorny underbrush worth it if we arrive at a cement block wall? What price would you pay to arrive at a beautiful overlook that inspires us to continue and encourage others to join our journey?
It’s easy, though, to lose sight of the destination – to lose the forest for the trees. It’s easy to sometimes forget what the destination even is. Worse than that, it’s also possible for members of an organization to get asked to go on a journey without a clear or meaningful destination.
Public education in our nation and world is changing…it must change. As a result, our school division is on a grand journey toward the ultimate destination, excellence. Along the way, it’s rarely going to be easy. Each section of the trail will have challenges, obstacles, and reasons to turn back. That’s why it’s so important to know the destination – to keep our eyes on the prize. Excellence is a difficult journey, but it’s a worthy destination. We will face many challenges. I hope to use this blog to keep the destination of excellence, the destination of continuous growth, the destination of serving the needs of young people in the forefront.
Please never hesitate to ask questions or offer suggestions. This blog will be an “as needed” source of sharing information, but students, parents, staff, and citizens of Salem are welcome to contact me any time.