Saturday, December 13, 2014

Retirement or Recycling??????

Two weeks ago, I let our Governing Board know that I intended to retire at the end of my current contract which is June 30.   It was a very difficult decision for me because I feel that I still have a few things left to do down here in Douglas.  However, at this point in my life, I feel that it is the very best decision for me personally.   There are so many wonderful people here and I have absolutely valued them.  I have been overwhelmed by the positive emails that I have received from so many people.  It has been heartwarming to me to know that there are a lot of people who wish that this day had not come.

The night that I told the Board was also the night that I got my annual evaluation.  I had a great evaluation and the Board said that I have taken the District to the next level.  With 5 being the highest, I had 4 + for my evaluation.  That came from the whole five member Board.  I am proud of what I have done in Douglas and what has been accomplished and no one can take that away.

I have had an amazing career for the past 43 years.  I absolutely loved being a teacher.  I still have connection with many of the students and their families that I taught for 17 years.   That means a bunch to me.  The 20 years that I spent as the principal of Gilbert Elementary were awesome.  Being an elementary principal was the best job in the whole world as far as I am concerned.   I have very much enjoyed my job down here in Douglas.  However, some of the politics have been very difficult.  And the politics in Arizona will make it even more difficult to do a good job over the next few years.  Education is not a priority and there will be cuts.   This will hurt Douglas more than many other districts and the students, families and educators down here DO NOT DESERVE THIS!!!!  It amazes me the job that our teachers do down here with very limited resources.

My friend and mentor, Wally Delecki, says that he did not retire, but has recycled as he teaches for NAU.  I know that I will do something after June, but not sure what as yet.   I guess that I will also be recycling.  One of our consultants is a retired superintendent and he has told me that he is a "recovering superintendent."  I think that may be my mantra, at least for a few months or years!!!!

It has been a grand journey and I have made so many wonderful friends through the years.  I have been blessed in many ways!!! 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Marriage Equality and Acceptance Finally!

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending the wedding of my friend, Clare, and her partner of 13 years, Bonnie.   

On October 17, 2014, U.S. District Court Judge John Sedwick ruled that Arizona's anti-marriage amendment is unconstitutional. Arizona Attorney General Horne announced just hours later that he would not appeal the ruling, meaning that same-sex couples immediately had the freedom to marry in the Grand Canyon State!  As conservative as our state is, this was a huge hurdle for equality for all people.

I have known Clare for over 20 years.  She taught for me at Gilbert El and is probably the best music teacher ever in the state of Arizona! Every year, she did a musical with every grade level and she included EVERY child in the musical no matter what their abilities or disabilities.  She is amazing!!!

She and Bonnie are both wonderful human beings who absolutely deserve all of the rights that go along with this ruling.   I know that they were already happy, but this brings their happiness full circle.

The wedding was in their beautiful backyard that Bonnie designed.  Clare's friend, Randy, performed the wedding.  There was a huge crowd of their families and friends and everyone was so happy for them.  They both so deserve this!

And, of course, the music was great and there were tears and laughter throughout the ceremony.   Peggy Dole sang a couple of songs.  Her voice is amazing!!

Finally, Arizona has come through---or I should say a judge came through for equality for all.   It was truly a special evening and I am so glad that I was a part of it.  

Congratulations to Clare and Bonnie and may they have a wonderful life together!!!   

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Miscellaneous Musings

The month of October was quite busy for me in a positive way.  I was able to get away for a weekend in Las Vegas with my dear friends, Elise and Jessie.   We went to see Bill Maher--I love his very irreverent sense of humor.   And as always, I enjoyed my time with Jessie and Elise, two of my favorite people in the world!

Teresa and I went to San Francisco for the wedding reception of my cousin, Eddie and his wonderful bride, Jody.  We had been there in September for their wedding which was very small.   Two of his sisters put on this reception for them. We got to see most of our northern California family, which is always a highlight for me.  I have the best cousins who are such an integral part of my life.   And of course, getting to see Patrick was awesome.  He is doing so well and it is great for me to see him so happy and content.

Teresa, Lena and I went to mass on that Saturday in San Francisco.  This was right after the SF Giants won the National League Pennant.  The priest is definitely a big Giant's fan and he mentioned it several times during the mass.   At the end as they were walking out, one of the altar boys had a Giants' hat on along with a number 1 "glove."  Two of the altar girls carried a Giant's banner down the aisle.  When we got out of church, there was the priest greeting everyone with his bright orange shorts on!!  It was so funny and such a nice touch to see the enthusiasm and loyalty.

I was able to take a few days off during fall break.  This was a much needed break for me.  My job is all encompassing and it is good to get away from it for a bit.  One of the best parts of these few days was visiting Gilbert El for an assembly.   I was so touched that I got so many hugs from the kids.  The current 5th and 6th graders were in kindergarten and first grade respectively my last year as principal.  It was so good to see so many of my old staff.  Gilbert El is the best and I have always said that the 20 years I spent there were the best years of my long educational career!

Last weekend, I attended the Douglas High School All Class Reunion.   It is held every three years.  The really nice part of this is that there are people from all classes and so you get to visit with many people.  I was able to visit with some of my Facebook friends  who I didn't really know in high school, but have become friends with on Facebook.  I was asked to give the welcoming, which was an honor.  It was a huge success!!!

At Douglas High, we have an incredible Land Lab which has two ponds, gardens, animals, etc.  It is a true "hands on" learning experience for all of DUSD students.  Kelly Glenn Kimbro and her daughter McKenzie, have been the key to making this happen for our District.  They have put in countless hours with many volunteers and have also brought in thousands of dollars in grants and donations.  Last Saturday they had an open house/pumpkin patch.  Kelly's mom, Wendy, died a few months ago and our Governing Board named the pond after Kelly's mom.    I had the honor of cutting the ribbon along with her dad, McKenzie, and Kelly.  What a tribute to a wonderful family!!

All in all, it was a great month! 

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Those We Love Are Never Really Gone...........

I have often quoted my favorite author, Carmen Agra Deedy.  Her book, The Last Dance, is my favorite book of all time.  Although it is a children's book,  it is meant for any age.  The message about the importance of family is beautifully written.  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 sing 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.
This past week was an emotional week for me.  October 6th was the 12th anniversary of my mom's death and October 8th would have been her 97th birthday.    Since she died, our family has tried to get together each year about this time to tell her stories.   She was quite a character and so there are always a lot of laughs.  Last night, Teresa, Judy, Ken, Kerri, Chris, Cameron and I went to dinner at Cafe Roka in Bisbee to celebrate her life and to tell her stories.   We laughed about so many of them.  
When my children were little, she was very strict with them, as she was with me when I grew up.  But when Cameron was born, that all changed.  She was absolutely crazy about him and I saw a side of her that I had never seen before.   My mom was never the "cookie" making mom or anything like that.  She was a tough little lady who got things done in her own way.  
One of the many stories we told last night was  just before she died.   We had gone out to dinner in Mesa for Kerri's and Cameron's birthdays in early September.   Cameron had just turned four.  My mom was no longer able to walk because of a stroke that she had so she was sitting in a wheelchair at the head of the table.   Cameron started to do something that he shouldn't have and Kerri corrected him.  Well, that was not okay with his "Great" as she proceeded to try to stab Kerri in the hand with her fork.  It was hysterical.   Cameron loves this story so we have to do a reenactment every year!!
This tradition has become very important to us.  Last night, something happened that I think was a kind of message.   There was a mix up with the time for our reservation so we had to wait a bit and then had to go up one flight of stairs, which was a bit difficult for Teresa.   So the waiter brought out some appetizers on the house because of this extra wait.  One of the appetizers was named "Margaret's olives.........."   My mom's name was Margaret Olive!!!    I think that maybe that was her way of telling us she was with us.

I miss her every day and I am thankful to have had such a wonderful mother.  I learned so much from her and I know she would be proud of me being down here in Douglas with Teresa and for the job that I am doing!!  "Those we love are never really gone as long as their stories are told!!!"   We will continue this wonderful tradition I am sure.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Living a Long Life

 I found this a few months ago on Facebook and shared it then.  It is really powerful and  so pertinent to my time here in Douglas with Teresa.


"My dear girl, the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If when we talk, I repeat the same thing a thousand times, don’t interrupt to say: “You said the same thing a minute ago”... Just listen, please. Try to remember the times when you were little and I would read the same story night after night until you would fall asleep.

When I don’t want to take a bath, don’t be mad and don’t embarrass me. Remember when I had to run after you making excuses and trying to get you to take a shower when you were just a girl?

When you see how ignorant I am when it comes to new technology, give me the time to learn and don’t look at me that way... remember, honey, I patiently taught you how to do many things like eating appropriately, getting dressed, combing your hair and dealing with life’s issues every day... the day you see I’m getting old, I ask you to please be patient, but most of all, try to understand what I’m going through.

If I occasionally lose track of what we’re talking about, give me the time to remember, and if I can’t, don’t be nervous, impatient or arrogant. Just know in your heart that the most important thing for me is to be with you.

And when my old, tired legs don’t let me move as quickly as before, give me your hand the same way that I offered mine to you when you first walked.

When those days come, don’t feel sad... just be with me, and understand me while I get to the end of my life with love.

I’ll cherish and thank you for the gift of time and joy we shared. With a big smile and the huge love I’ve always had for you, I just want to say, I love you... my darling daughter."

- Unknown

Although Teresa is my aunt, she is just like a mother.  Judy and I were fortunate to grow up with two mothers and if you count Mary, which I do, three.   Three wonderful women all strong in different ways.  

Teresa turned 92 in July.  I have seen a big decline over the past 6 months or so.  So many of the things that are mentioned in the letter, I am dealing with  her.  I have to be careful not to say "remember" and many times it is hard to be patient.  

Of course, I always have to find the humor in things.   The other night we were sitting watching TV.  Teresa had the remote.  I asked her to please turn to Channel 13.  About 10 seconds later, I told her that she needed to use the remote and not her cell phone to change the channel.  We both laughed.  And I know that this is hard on her because she is such an intelligent woman and I can only imagine how frustrating things can be.   

These past four years with her have been a blessing for both of us as I have said before.  She is truly one of the best human beings around!!!!!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Sticks and Stones May Break Your Bones, But Names Will Never Hurt You.....................

I remember always hearing this saying as a kid and I guess I never thought much about it.  After I became a teacher and then a principal, I really thought about how untrue this particular saying is.   I want to talk about this further in this post, but I am going to digress for just a minute.

Two weeks ago when Teresa and I were in California for my cousin Eddie's wedding to Jody, I broke my foot.  It was really a fluke accident as all I did was stand up to go get ready for the wedding.  I turned my foot really badly and it really hurt.   However, I have had so much trouble with my feet all of my life that I truly am use to both of them hurting.  So I got ready for the wedding and limped my way through it.  It was at a vineyard near San Francisco and everything was beautiful.  

The next morning, we got up early as we had an early flight so that we could get back to Douglas.  I walked (limped) through the entire SF airport, Phoenix airport, got our luggage and helped Teresa.  By the time we got to Gilbert, my foot was very swollen and black and blue so I thought I better get to the doctor.  A trip to Urgent Care and then my orthopedic doctor confirmed that it is a fracture of a bone in my foot.   I am currently in a boot and go back in two weeks to see how it is healing.  The doctor told me it could take 3 to 4 months.  I am just thankful that it was my left foot.   I can still drive!!!   Several years ago I had surgery on my right foot and I couldn't drive for 4 months.  I was totally dependent on others.  

Now back to the names.............I always talked to each grade level at the beginning of the year when I was the principal.  I went over the school rules and then talked to the kids about how they should treat others.  One of the things I would always tell them is that if you break a bone or get a cut or something like that, it will eventually heal.  It may take some time, but it would eventually be okay.  I then talked to them about what they said to each other and calling others names.   I would tell them that this hurts our hearts.   While we can see an outward cut or bruise, the heart is hurting and can't be seen.  And many times those hurts don't ever go away.   I think all of us forget about the good things that happen or that people say to us, but we ALWAYS remember the bad things.   Treating each other with dignity and respect was the cornerstone of the community that was Gilbert El.

Since I have been in  Douglas, I still talk about this.  I always tell our faculty and staff that no one's job is more important than the next.  We each have something  to contribute in order for our District to run and to run well.

Over the past year and a half, I have dealt with some very negative people who believe it is okay to call others all kinds of very detrimental names.     I know in my position I can't possibly have everyone like me, but this has gone beyond that.    It is so sad to me that there are people out there who want to destroy the good things that are happening.   However, I can hold my head up and I am very  proud of the job I have done.  I have withstood this nastiness and know that I am a better person today after having withstood this.  My job here is not finished and I know that I have a lot of support from so many  people.   I hear it all of the time.

 My friend, Mike Rochin, posted another beautiful saying that I believe fits with this post:

"Life is a series of memories, some good and some not so good. The good memories bring joy to your heart when they come to mind and the not so good ones can bring pain or sadness. The idea isn't to only think of the good ones and be thankful for them and curse the other, but to also be thankful for the other because through those times came growth and strength. You are, in part, who you are because of all your past experiences. Use them as building blocks to continue growing and becoming a better you."

My foot will heal in a few months, but it might take my heart a little bit longer.   One of my  favorite quotes is "that sometimes it is better to be kind, than right."     In this case, I know that I have done the right thing and I will continue to treat people with kindness and respect. And I will use all of my past experiences as a building block to continue to grow and become a better person.  I truly am blessed!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Writing Saves Me from the Sin and Inconvenience of Violence.................

I am not sure why writing my blog has not been a priority for me.   I love to write and it is truly an outlet for me.    However, this year writing has been difficult and I have not experienced the joy and excitement to be able to update my blog on a regular basis.   I need to get back that joy and start writing more.  There are so many good things happening here and I can't let the negative issues overtake the so many more positive ones.     So I am truly going to try to get back to writing and forget the negativity that parts of my job bring.

Mike Rochin, who is a Facebook friend and is also from Douglas, posted something that really touched me in many ways.   He is an incredible writer and just about every day he writes something on Facebook.  They are always insightful, thoughtful, and touching.   Here is what he wrote:

"Some people can be mean and say and do things that are hurtful.   Instead of trying to “repay” them with the same acts that they use, remember that they are in some way broken and hurting.  Their treatment of others reflects this fact.  They simply don’t know how to channel their pain.  The answer is not to make excuses for them, but to keep a positive outlook and be thankful that you are not in that predicament."

This really hit me and made me think about some of the issues that I have been dealing with.  I particularly was taken with the part that says to be thankful that you are not in that predicament.  It actually gave me a truly peaceful feeling.  What Mike says is so true!!!  I thank him for sharing this with me and giving me an opportunity to reflect on his words!   

I am thankful that I am not in that "predicament."  I have a wonderful, loving family.  It has been a blessing for me to spend the last four years here in Douglas with my Aunt Teresa.   It has given her more time to be in the house that she loves.   My children are doing well and I have a precious grandson, Cameron.   Judy and her family are always so supportive of me.  My cousins are the best and our extended family is so close.  I have so many wonderful friends that I cherish.   And I still keep in touch with former students and families that I had as a teacher and as a principal.   My career has spanned 43 years and I still believe being an educator is the most honorable of professions.  I am so blessed in so many ways!

My goal is to start writing again at least once a week.  I still love the quote by Alice Walker that I have posted on my blog...........  "Writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence!"


Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Long Time

It has been quite some time since I have posted anything on my blog.   It seems that most of what happens in my life here in Douglas are not things that can be posted.   My job keeps me very busy and there are challenges every day.   Working in such a poor district with few resources can be very hard.  However, I feel that we are right on the brink of some great things.   It may take another year before we see the real gains.   Student learning is so hard to predict.   With all of the mandates, both from the state and the federal governments, it can sometimes be frustrating.   

This year we are working with a new consulting group--West Ed.  I have been so impressed with the work they are doing.   Right now they are concentrating on working with the principals and the academic coaches.  They are also working with our elementary teachers in math.  This year we still have AIMS testing, but still have to become knowledgeable of Common Core.

Although at times it is difficult, I am proud of all that has been accomplished.   The administrators, faculty and support staff are amazing and work so hard.  The kids here are great and so respectful.  And I love the sense of community that we have here. 

I still miss being an elementary principal and still believe it is the best job in the whole world.  But what I can do at the level I am at is way more than what I could do in that role.  Every position, especially superintendent, is political.   There are always people trying to make things difficult.  However, I have been able to rise above the nonsense that goes on and keep my head up as I know I am doing the absolute best for this community.  

I work many hours and don't get much time to myself.  When I come home, there is a lot to do for Teresa.   She is doing very well, but she is 91 years old.   She is gone for a couple of weeks to get some doctor appointments done, etc.  So this weekend I have had time to reflect on the last 3 1/2 years.  Despite all of the difficult situations, I know that my being here has been the right thing for me and the right thing for the District.  Our children deserve so much here and I am working to make sure that happens. 

I hope to start writing more as it really is therapeutic for me.   As Alice Walker says, "writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of  violence."