Monday, August 30, 2010

Keeping the Faith

Over the course of the years, there have been times that I have questioned my faith. I think that this is something that happens to everyone. Even Mother Teresa had questions. The last few years in the Phoenix area, I have had a hard time with some of the philosophy that has come down to us from the Bishop. His conservative political agenda has been discouraging to me. I have always wondered what my mom would have done if this had been the case when she was alive. She had such strong political views as well as strong views about her religion. I know that I have had many discussions with my cousins about this. We are fortunate to have Franciscans in our lives who look at life so differently. I remember when I was in college in the 60's. It was the priests and nuns who were protesting the Vietnam War as well as championing the Civil Rights Movement. It seems that some of that has been lost recently.

Since I have come to Douglas, I have noticed a very different philosophy. Douglas is in a different Diocese from Phoenix. There is nothing overt that I can really point out. It just seems that there is more of an acceptance of differences in people and all of God's children.

I have said before that I thought the emotional part would be leaving the wonderful school I had been at with the great staff, families, and children. And it has been. However, being down here in Douglas has also been very emotional. I have posted about that before. But it has also been a spiritual experience for me.

When I first got arrived in Douglas, I received an email from Sister Ann Patrice. She was the principal of Loretto School when I went there over 45 years ago. I thought the world of her and had kept in touch sporadically over the years. Her email said:

Dear Sheila,

Art Atonna and Jerry Reidy very kindly let me know about your new position in Douglas Public Schools.

Congratulations on your new appointment! I am confident that you will fulfill this new challenge with wisdom, courage, and grace. Your generosity in leaving what I understand to be a comfortable and secure position to accept one that will have unique challenges, confirms in my mind that you have what it takes to make a difference in the lives of our children and families on the border. Most of all, your faith will be your firm foundation. God's children--and we all are that--deserve caring and effective leadership, which I know you will exhibit. I still have very fond memories of Loretto and the people of Douglas.

Sheila, I promise my prayers for you. Moreover, I will place your name in the Book of Intentions in St. Catherine Chapel here at our Adrian Dominican motherhouse. Please give my love to your family and save lots for you.

Peace, love and prayers,
S. Ann Patrice Remkus OP

I cannot explain how touched I was to receive this email from her. We have corresponded since and I feel privileged to have her in my life again.

Last week, my assistant superintendent and I went to the funeral of the husband of one of our district teachers. As we were driving down 15th Street, we passed St. Luke's Church which is the parish that our family has belonged to for over 55 years. The pastor was walking out with two other men. Bonnie, my assistant, said that one of the men was the Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson. She had met him when he came down to say the Funeral Mass for Rob Krentz, the rancher who was murdered down here last spring. The funeral mass was at the Douglas High School Gym and Bonnie was the principal of the high school at the time. We pulled over and went to talk to Bishop Kicanas and Father Gilbert. The Bishop remembered Bonnie. He was down here for the opening and dedication of an abused women's shelter that was just built here in Douglas.

So we took him and Father Gilbert on a tour of Douglas High School. The kids were so excited to see him and to see Bonnie. Staff members came up and introduced themselves. We went to a couple of classes and the high school students were incredible. We went to a culinary arts class and the Bishop told the students that he is a vegan and asked if they knew what that meant. They did. Right after that, we went to the special ed class with the more involved students. They also do some work with the culinary arts class. Several of the students knew Father Gilbert and were excited to see him. The kids were also glad to meet the Bishop. One student who had been drooling came over to say hi. His teacher wiped his mouth with a cloth and the Bishop walked over to him and shook his hand and talked to him!!

Needless to say, I was "blown away" by the whole experience. I called my Phoenix cousins to tell them about this and of course, called Teresa.

Today when I got to my office I had a card in my mail. It said, "Sheila, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to give me a chance to visit Douglas High School. Economic challenges have made your important job even more difficult. Our community needs strong educational leadership. Thanks for your service." Gerald Kicanas.

These two experiences have had a profound impact on me. I truly believe that things happen for a reason. I did not expect to see some of these reasons in quite this way. I feel blessed!

Yesterday when we took Cameron to Tucson after he spent the weekend here, we met Kerri, Judy, and our friends, Paula and Marty for dinner for Kerri's birthday. When Teresa and I left to drive back to Douglas, we saw the most beautiful rainbow with another one next to it that was faded just a bit. This rainbow was there for over an hour of our drive. It was so beautiful and I believe had a message.......

Sunday, August 22, 2010


It has been almost a month since I moved to Douglas. We just completed our second full week of school. I continue to be very busy between the district and home. But it is a different kind of busy which is hard to explain.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't meet someone who had a connection to my mom or has one to Teresa or talk to someone that I have known most of my life. It has been an amazing journey. I was thinking about the hectic month of July when I came down two different weekends to interview for this position. I haven't interviewed for a job in over 20 years and before that I interviewed for my teaching job and took the first one which was Gilbert. I have done many, many interviews over the years but I was always the one doing the interviewing.

The first interview was with the Governing Board. After
that, we met with some of the administrators in the district and then an open forum with teachers. The final interview was that Monday night at the Douglas High School auditorium. It was an open forum for the entire community. I must say I was a bit nervous for all of the interviews, but especially this one. In attendance to support were my family, my friend Susan, Gloria and Craig from Gilbert, and another friend from Bisbee.

The question came up about how do I relax after a stressful day. My response was that I had pugs and they are constant entertainment. But I added that I had just started riding a bicycle. I had purchased one in March and was riding quite
a bit in Gilbert. The only problem that I had was that once I got on the bike, I couldn't stop until I got home because I couldn't get back on the bike very well. So I had a route picked out where I didn't need to stop!! I knew that if I came to Douglas, that wouldn't work as there are quite a few stop signs around. So I purchased a trike because it is just like a bike but I would be able to stop. I shared this with the community forum. As I looked in the front row, my friend, Susan, who has been my friend since we were 14 was laughing so hard that I thought she was going to fall out of her seat!!!

My theory is that I am who I am and I needed to let them see that I do have a sense of humor!! Anyway, the proctor from the Arizona School Board Association suggested that if I got the job that the pugs and I might be asked to be in the Homecom
ing Parade with me riding my trike. We will see---haven't been asked that question as yet!!! The only problem is my trike is red and Douglas High colors are black and gold!!!
On the Friday before school started, all of the district employees met in the high school auditorium. The first hour was a breakfast and mingling and visiting with each other. It reminded me so much of Gilbert when it was sm
all. We then had introductions of new administrators and teachers. I had a half hour for my talk and those of you who know me know that I don't need much time to say what I want to say. I wanted to make sure that what I had to say would be well received and from my heart. I wanted the faculty and staff to know why I had come back to Douglas after all of these years.

Here is what I had to say that Friday morning:

Good morning and welcome to the 2010/11 school year. It i
s a pleasure for me to be standing before you this morning as the new superintendent of Douglas Unified School District #27. The last time that I was on this stage, I played the part of the titmouse in Alice and Wonderland and sang "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat." It was the first and only time that I have ever been involved in what might be called musical theater. As an elementary school student involved in choir, I had been asked by Sister Daria to mouth the words, so I won't be doing a rendition for you this morning!!!

I have to say it is so great to be back in my home town of Douglas, Arizona. My grandparents moved to Douglas in 1912 and purchased the house that I grew up in on 14th Street in 1918. It has been in our family for 92 years and I feel very fortu
nate to come back and live in this home. Even though my roots are in this house here in Douglas, we need to remember that our roots are in people, not places. The people of Douglas are what make this the wonderful community that it is.

I also feel very privileged to have been given this opportunity to be a part of this district. In the short two weeks that I have been here, I have felt very welcomed by so many of you. I have been so impressed by the dedication to the education of the children of Douglas that I have consistently seen everywhere I have been in the district.

I have met individually with each of our principals. In our discussions, I have told them that we at the district office are to be of service to the schools. Principals, teachers, and teacher assistants who work with the children are the k
ey to student success. Our job at the district level is to make your jobs a bit easier.

Lee Iacocca, who was the president of Chrysler Motor Company, said that he believed that in a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would settle for something else. I believe that the best of us are teachers! In these difficult political and financial times, educators still do everything in our power to make a difference in our society and in the life of a child.

It is my goal as your superintendent to strive to take the very best care that I can of our teachers and classified staff so that you in turn can take great care of our students. Please know that my door is always open for each of you. I always try to put people before paperwork.

I firmly believe that kindness is good for our health. My former superintendent, Wally Delecki, who I learned so much from and who has been a mentor to me, always says that sometimes it is better to be kind than to be right.

It takes a united effort on the part of each person in our dist
rict to insure success. I want to get to know the district and I will need your help with this. I will be visiting your schools, classrooms, and departments during the year. I want to be able to interact and get to know you, as well as our students.

Helen Keller said that once she knew only darkness and stillness. Her life was without past or future...but a little word from the fingers of a teacher fell into her hand that clutched the emptiness, and her heart leaped to the rapture of living. This is why I am still an educator after many years. I still believe that I can make a difference
in the life of a child. Each one of you in this room have made the difference in the life of a child and will continue to create a future for the children of the Douglas School District!

Together as administrators, teachers, and support staff, we will make this a positive year for all of us here in Douglas!!

As I have gone around the district or different places in Douglas, I have had many people comment on my speech. That means a lot to me!

This Friday is the Bisbee/Douglas Football Game here in Douglas on our new artificial turf in the DHS stadium. This rivalry has been going on sinc
e 1906 and is one of the oldest high school rivalries in the state. I am looking forward to the game and to the many events that I will be able to be a part of in the months and years to come!! And I need to "Keep on Trikin'"!!!!!

Friday, August 6, 2010


Pedro Pug, alias "The Barker," has been sent back to Gilbert for excessive barking. Pedro just couldn't contain himself in the short period that he was in Douglas. Everywhere he went, he had to bark. Innocent people walking down the street were accosted by his very loud and shrill bark. The cat in the backyard was chased out of the yard in a fit of barking. (Pedro couldn't figure out where the cat went and tried to get into the dry swimming pool to find the cat.)
He barked looking out the front window of the house. He barked upstairs in the middle of the night. There was nothing that would keep him from his undaunted task of being "The Barker."

At one point, it appeared that Pedro might have to go back on the Douglas/Agua Prieta shuttle and be left off at Denny's on I10. However, a fortunate circumstance found Pedro getting a ride in air conditioned comfort in a Honda Civic. Pedro was actually thrilled to go back to Gilbert with his boy, Cam!!

Taking Pedro's place in Douglas is Pancho. Pancho joins Lucy in this Douglas version of "Pug Survival." So far Pancho is acclimating very well. However, that may have to do with the bark protector that sits on the desk near the front door. It emits such a high pitch that only animals can hear it. This device did not arrive in time to save Pedro from deportation!

Stay tuned to late breaking news about the latest reality show......"Pug Survival!!!"