school district is like a very big family. There are the elders, the new generation, the distant cousins, the in-laws and all, sometimes an ex or two. And, like a family, at times problems surface.
I want to talk with you about facing problems head-on, putting solutions into effect, and moving on with pride and joy. That is what our community requires. Please let me know if you disagree.
I can appreciation the saying, "there is an elephant in the room," which I believe comes to us from those who deal with alcoholism and rehabilitation. The visualization of an elephant as a huge, unrecognized problem ‹ no offense to elephants! ‹ which sits kind of all over the living room, helps a person deal with the phenomenon and admit there is a problem. Do you want that thing spreading into the corners, lodging itself behind the bookcases, oozing into the woodwork, and slipping under the carpet? I think not!
It is important to remember that in all families mistakes and misdeeds occur. A family is not condemned because a member has brought on a problem. It is how the family deals with the deed that will reveal character. Is responsibility placed onto the correct shoulders? Is appropriate action taken to repair the damage? Or do excuses, rationalizations, and a lack of follow-up perpetuate the problem?
Character is of utmost importance when these nightmarish problems surface. Character is called for in determining how to deal in a just manner with those affected. Character calls for support for the problem solvers who are confronting the issues head on. Character is called for in the stamina required to scrutinize the problem ‹ how it came into being in the first place, how it could have been prevented, and most importantly, how to prevent its reoccurrence.
Families can learn from their mistakes. They can become strong when they face the music and say, this will not be tolerated. They can correct the problem, put it behind them, and hold their heads up with pride. Not the pride that comes from believing oneself is perfect, but the pride that comes from knowing that one has been hit by a problem and dealt with it effectively.
Families, of course, have rights in addition to responsibilities. They have some right to privacy. Not a complete right to keep everything hush-hush, but a right to keep certain information private. Public institutions have a responsibility to keep certain matters confidential. This is one of the many reasons that we require trustworthiness in our public officials.
I have great confidence that our education family has the stamina, strength, and trustworthiness to deal with problems appropriately.
Now, on another topic, I have a personal message for the person who anonymously spoke out recently on these pages regarding the promotion and retention criteria, asking the Pajaronian to do a story on the subject. I invite you to contact me. I will get you a copy of the new criteria. I will be pleased to discuss with you the concerns you have.
Sandra Nichols is the Board President of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties, and a Speech and Language Specialist with Santa Cruz City Schools. This essay was first published in the Pulitzer Prize Winning Watsonville Register-Pajaronian, December 14, 2002. The opinions expressed are those of Sandra Nichols and do not necessarily represent those of any school district, print publication or web site.
© Sandra Nichols 2002