I was recently at a meeting with other superintendents from various school districts throughout central Illinois. A superintendent turned to me and asked, “How are you holding up?” He was asking based on the recent situation with our elementary school closing due to the HVAC upgrades. As a superintendent, being in the media for having to make a decision to close a building because of mold is never a situation anyone desires to be in. The funny part of the story is that I was able to answer very honestly by simply saying, “I’m great.”
It is a weekly occurrence that I share with someone that I love my job, or that I’m proud of our school district. The recent inconvenience at the elementary school again reaffirmed my pride in our community, staff, and students. I asked myself through the process if what I was seeing was possible anyplace other than Tri-Valley. Obviously, I’m not sure how other communities would respond, but I can promise that it is rare that everyone would rally behind an issue and become completely unified in the process. During the three weeks that our students were out of the building, our administrative team received no negative e-mails or phone calls. We did however receive an outpouring of support.
It is also to be noted that our teachers were flexible, positive, and focused during the process. I hear horror stories at times about how some organizations react to change or inconvenience. Our teachers came together, stated their willingness to do “whatever it takes” and focused on your children to ensure their learning. There were literally times when I would become overwhelmed watching our teachers embrace inconvenience for the betterment of the students we serve.
Finally, I have to reflect on the day that we moved back into the building. It was a surreal moment for me, and certainly ranks near the top of my proudest moments in education. Our leadership team had worked very hard to coordinate the entire process from the beginning of school, but the move back required some help. The day of the move we had community members, the PTO, our Downs Fire Department, and students come in droves to lend a hand. In less than one hour we had moved every teacher back home. Our athletic director, Mr. Knutson, stated to me later that “it’s amazing what can happen when nobody cares who gets the credit….we should be proud.” He was right. I was very proud. I was proud to get to be a part of something wonderful. I was also thankful that my children get to attend a school in a community that demonstrates resilience in the way we do.
The beginning of the year has not been an easy one for many reasons. We have endured challenges as a district, and heartbreak for some of our families. We have been reminded of the need to appreciate each moment, and to work to find the silver lining in every situation. We have been reminded of the need to be resilient and united. We have again been provided an example of how Tri-Valley is more than just a school district. I reflect often on where we are and where we are heading. So when I am asked how things are going, I’ll continue to answer “things are great”…because they are. I hope you feel the same.