Friday, July 30, 2010

Who Says You Can't Go Home?????

WOW!!!!!! I can't believe that it is Friday, the end of an amazing week. I started my new job as Superintendent of Douglas Unified School District on Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m. As is any job in education these days, "I hit the ground running" and never looked back. It has been a week of meeting new people and trying to learn the ins and outs of a new district.

I truly thought when I made this decision to apply for the job in Douglas and leave Gilbert, that the emotional piece for me would be leaving Gilbert El and the wonderful faculty, staff, parents, and children. And it was emotional. What I didn't know was how emotional coming back to Douglas would be. I have truly been amazed by the support of so many people here. I have received emails from former Douglas people living elsewhere letting me know how happy they are that I am the new superintendent. I have been welcomed by the district office personnel and the principals. Next week, teachers will be back and I will be so happy and proud to greet them. They do an incredible job in this district and they have my utmost admiration.

As I have gone around the district and have been introduced to people, I have had so many people tell me how much they liked and admired my mom. This has truly touched me as she has been gone for eight years now.

The pace of life here is so much different. Heavy traffic is no where to be found. The weather has been great--it has rained every day. The district office is 3 1/2 blocks from the house.

Today the district office personnel put on a barbecue lunch (you haven't lived until you have a barbecue in Douglas with all the wonderful Mexican food) for the new people and to say good-bye to a classified person who is retiring and also to the wonderful interim superintendent, Ray Borane, who has done this job for the last several months for a whole $1.00. Mr. Borane was superintendent for many years and was recently the mayor of Douglas. He truly epitomizes someone who gives back to the community. In four short days, I have learned so much from him.

I realize that this is only the first week and that there is always a honeymoon period, but I can honestly say that I AM SO GLAD I AM HERE. I hope that I can give something back to this wonderful community where I was raised and contributed so much to who I am today. I truly believe growing up in Douglas had a great impact in so many positive ways. I also believe that growing up here was instrumental in who all of my aunts and uncles who grew here became. They then handed this down to my wonderful cousins.

So here I am, living in the house I grew up and that Teresa was born in. My grandfather bought this house in 1918. That is amazing anywhere, but particularly in Arizona.

I also believe that my years in Gilbert working with dedicated educators has also impacted me in so many ways. Today I was looking for something to put on the Douglas website and I went to the Gilbert website. There was an article on the site about me being named superintendent in Douglas. I was truly touched by this.

I will miss all of the people who have meant so much to me for so long, but know that true friendships will last.

I am glad to be back here in Douglas, Arizona!! And I am proud that I was chosen to be their superintendent. It will be a new and exciting adventure--one that I never in my wildest dreams imagined would happen. I have always believed that everything happens for a reason......... I am feeling very good about this reason being something very important. I hope I am right!!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Saying Good-bye to my dear friend, Martha!

A week ago last Thursday, I was able to spend several hours at my friend Martha's house. Joe, Pam, her sister, and their three children were there as they knew the end was close. Martha would sleep for awhile and then would wake up and talk. She was amazing!

I left for a few hours and came back with dinner for the family. I stayed for about an hour and then was able to say good-bye to her. I knew it was going to be the last time I saw her as I was leaving for Douglas in the morning and knew she probably wouldn't last through the weekend. She hugged me for quite some time and I was able to tell her how much I loved her. It was very hard for me.

Early Friday morning, I got word that she had passed on. I drove to Douglas with a heavy heart. As I was driving into Douglas, there was rain and clouds all around, but the sun was shining above me. As I looked off to the left by the beautiful mountains, there was an incredible rainbow. For some reason, it made me think that this was a sign from Martha. It was beautiful.

Yesterday her memorial service was conducted at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale. Martha didn't want it to be a sad occasion, but truly a celebration of her life. And it was. I was so touched and honored earlier in the week that Joe asked me to speak at the celebration of this wonderful woman's life.

Here is what I said:

Sometimes a person needs to hear the life story of another more than they need food, water, or shelter to sustain their being. In our moment of acute grief Martha's story is one of those stories that bring us hope, courage, and wisdom that will sustain us in our future lives.

I was privileged to know Martha for the past 10 years as her principal at Gilbert Elementary School. Martha was passionate about education. She was constantly striving to learn new and better techniques to meet the diverse needs of her students, and she embraced the whole child.

When Martha was first diagnosed with breast cancer, her focus was to get well for her family and her teaching. She fought this awful disease for the remainder of that school year.

She came back to Gilbert El at the start of the 2009/2010 school year. This horrible disease continued to rampage through Martha's body and everything she did to try to stop it did not work. She went through treatments that take a toll on people both emotionally and physically. However, Martha came to school each day to teach her students. She said that she drew strength from them and they were what kept her going. When they walked through the door in the morning, her kids brought a smile to her face and a strength to her body and soul that allowed her to be an incredible teacher each and every day. Cancer NEVER got in the way of Martha's teaching.

Martha loved all subjects, but reading and writing were her true love and this showed. Her students wrote letters nominating her for Gilbert Teacher of the Year and they were profound and so insightful coming from fourth graders. What Martha taught her children was not just about academics, it was about strength and courage and love. She taught all of us who had the privilege of knowing her about strength and courage and love.

I love children's literature, too, and my favorite author is Carmen Agra Deedy and her book "The Last Dance." In the story, the grandfather tells his grandchildren that every human being has the right to three things in life:

To Dance. The great thing in life is not so much to dance well,
but whether one is willing to dance at all.

To Sing, even if you sign off-key. The crow has as much right to a voice
as the nightingale.

To Tell Stories. Those we love are never really gone as
long as their
stories are told.

Martha's stories will live on in the countless number of children who were blessed to have her as a teacher. They will live on in her colleagues at Gilbert Elementary. But most importantly, they will live on in her three wonderful children: Janaya, Joey, and Michael; her incredibly loyal sister, Pam, and her most devoted husband, Joe and their families.

I have learned so much from Martha in the last 18 months that I will take with me forever.

And so my dear friend, Martha:

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields,
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.

The world is a better place because of Martha Hitzel. I will miss her dearly and always keep her in my heart. She has left three incredible children that she nurtured and raised to young adulthood. Her sister Pam was by her side for so much of this journey and I can only say that she has a wonderful husband and children who knew how important it was for her to be here with Martha. And Joe--what a shining example of the ultimate love between a man and a woman. I so admire him. I hope that in the days and years ahead, they find comfort in knowing what a wonderful person Martha was. I know that I will!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

What happens in Vegas..........

What happened in Vegas, should stay in Vegas. However, I am going to do a post on a wonderful few days that we had last week. My Aunt Teresa turns 88 at the end of this month, so we decided to do a "Girls' NightS Out" to celebrate her birthday. There were 12 of us "girls" altogether with Kerri and Kate J. helping to reduce the average age to about 60ish! Thank heavens we had them to help with that!!

Going from Arizona were Judy, Kerri, Teresa and I, along with my Uncle Matt's daughters', Yaya, Pat, and Cecilia. Coming from California was another of Matt's daughters, Marion. Also from California, my Aunt Dot's twin daughters, Jan and Jean. And all the way from Georgia via Colorado and California, Matt's youngest daughter, Teresa Ann and her youngest daughter, Kate! What a wild group of women!!!

We visited a lot, had wonderful dinners, and went to see Jersey Boys. Of course, we lost money, too!! Teresa was in her glory with all of her nieces..... All of my Uncle Matt's girls were there. We reminisced about our families and all of the fun we had growing up. Many summers were spent in Douglas over the years. Matt's wife and the girls' mom, Gyp, died in 1980. Her 100th birthday was a few weeks ago. She was born in Bisbee before Arizona became a state--hard to imagine!!

If it hadn't been for Gyp, I probably would not have made it through my first year at ASU. I was so homesick and missing Douglas. Every weekend I went to their house and was treated just like her kids. When I was younger, I was a bit scared of her, but after a time I realized her bark was much worse than her bite!! She was a great lady and I will be ever grateful for the way she helped me during that first year when I was so homesick. She would have been proud of her family and how all of us have stayed together. Matt remarried after Gyp died (they had celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary). I truly think it was a tribute to her that he wanted to get married again. Matt died in 2006 leaving Glennie and his daughters. Yaya, Pat, and Cecilia have been incredible in taking care of Glennie. I have so much respect for what they do!

My Aunt Dot died not too long after Gyp. She would also be so happy that her family has stayed so connected to all of us. If she were around, she would be the life of the party in Vegas!! She was also born in Douglas in 1912 a few months after Arizona became a state! I miss those great ladies and hope they were all smoking a cigarette with my mom and looking down on us!!
I had a wonderful time as I know that Teresa did. We are going to try to have an annual event to celebrate her birthday somewhere!!

Our family is wonderful and I am proud to be a part of the Scott Family from Douglas, Arizona!!!!