Tuesday, June 30, 2015

43 Years in 43 Days--Day Zero!

It is finally here!   And what a journey it has been!   There are so many people who have meant so much to me through these years.   I would never trade this incredible profession for any other.   I am proud to have been a part of this noble profession for 43 wonderful years!

There are so many people I would like to thank.  I just need to figure out how to do that, and I will.  I do want to thank a few people who have truly contributed to helping me "survive," enjoy, and be a successful administrator.   I probably wouldn't be writing these 43 years of memories if they hadn't had my back!   I previously mentioned my first office staff at Gilbert El when I started as principal.  I want to say a very special thanks to  Cris Silva and Toni Krampf, the office staff at Gilbert El for many years while I was principal.  They put up with me every day and saved me on many occasions and I will always be grateful to them. And especially to "my" secretary, Barb O'Fallon, who has meant the world to me!  Coming to Douglas, I have had the honor of working with Carol Perez.  Not only has Carol been "my" secretary, but she is also the Board's secretary and my friend.  She has been amazing and I can't thank her enough!  These ladies are the best and I can't begin to tell them how much they mean to me!  Thank you!!!!!

I don't think that my journey is complete yet and that is one of the key reasons I am moving back to Gilbert.  I am hoping that I will be able to continue to do something in some way in education for the next few years.  I am not ready to hang it all up and I feel I have a few more good years left.   So we will see what the next days and months bring.

Wally Delecki said that he recycled himself after he retired from Gilbert and went to teach at NAU.  One of our consultants calls himself a "recovering superintendent," which I love.  So I am hoping to "recycle" and I definitely know that I am "recovering" so maybe I will be a "Recycled, Recovering Superintendent!"

These past 43 days have been so much fun.  It has been therapeutic to go back each day over the past 43 years.   I have so enjoyed the dialog that has occurred on Facebook between people and the comments and remembrances that people have shared.   Thank you for the positive comments.  They mean so much.  And thank you to everyone who has read  about my 43 year journey.

It has been at times a wild ride, but I couldn't have asked for a better career!  It has been a blessing to me in so many ways.    I have so many incredible memories and so many people who have touched my heart that I can't imagine any other "job" (and it hasn't been a job--it has been so much more)!  I can only think of one final word to say and that is "WOW"............

Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating 50 Years of Marriage!

Today we head back to Nashville to take Teresa and Yaya to the airport.  Cameron, Kerri and I are spending the night there tonight after we take them to the airport.   We have had the BEST weekend celebrating the marriage of my cousins, Kathy and Lynn.   I had the honor of being a bridesmaid at their wedding in January, 1965 when I was still in high school.    And to be here to celebrate their 50 years together has been truly great.

Saturday night was a dinner and dance at the local country club.  Their three children and spouses put all of this together and each spoke of their parents love for each other.  A couple of their grandchildren also spoke.  It was so nice.

We have had such a great weekend.  Teresa loves to be with family and I am so glad that we were able to make this happen for her.   I can see the toll it takes on her in terms of how tired she gets.  But she loves it and everyone loves her and that is what is most important.

I love talking and visiting with our cousins.   They are not just cousins, but truly friends and I love them!   So thanks to everyone for the wonderful time!  It has been great!

One Day Left--Signing the Safe

A few weeks ago, I signed the safe which is a tradition here in the District.   Signatures of superintendents go back to 1905.  The first one is Thomas Grindell 1903-1905.  At the top of the safe door, it says that Mr. Grindell was the first principal and was lost in the Sonoran Desert in 1905 and never heard from again.   Don't know how true that is......

This safe is amazing!    It is built into the wall.  It is still functional and is used to store some things, but of course not any money (as we don't have money to store)!  It is built into the wall in the main office.

So my signature now resides as a part of the history of the Douglas Unified School District!  What an honor it has been to be a part of this District!





There is a saying that you can't go home again.  Well I came home and it has been extremely rewarding!  I leave behind so many fond memories and cherished relationships! It is sad to say good-bye!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Two Days--Great Board Members

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the importance of a good Board to a school district.   Through the years I have had the privilege to work with some great Board members.  In Gilbert, I worked some excellent Board members--Julia McCleve, Myrna Sheppard, and Don Skousen.  Julia, Myrna and Don were on the Board when I became a principal.  I also taught two of Julia's children at Patterson.  Not only were they good Board members, they are great people!!!

At the superintendent level, the relationship with the board is completely different.  Although I thought I knew about this, I also have to say I have learned a lot.   It has been my goal to keep the board informed of the happenings.  When we have had a crisis, I have called them personally.  Unfortunately, there have been too many of those!   I am sure that they sometimes cringe when they get a call from me!   I also have done a weekly update each Friday and let them know what has happened during the week.   

In Douglas, I have had some wonderful people on our Board and I would like to thank them as my days are winding down.  Chuck Hoyack was the Board president when I became the superintendent.   Although we only worked together for six months, I have valued him and have enjoyed my association with him during these years.   Susan Kramer, Patty Lopez, and Mario Ramos were also on the Board when I was hired.   Mario was the Board President for two of my years and he was excellent.   We met on a regular basis and he was so supportive!   Susan and Patty have been incredible Board members and I can't thank them enough for their support.  Susan has been on the Board my entire tenure and Patty didn't run again so her term was over in December.  Dr. Ed Gomez was elected during my second year as superintendent.   I have so enjoyed getting to know him and have appreciated his dedication and commitment.  I thank him, too, as he has been great.    Mike Ortega also was elected after I became the superintendent.  He has been the Board President for the past two years.  We also meet on a regular basis and I have learned so much from him about many things.    I am very grateful for these Board members and for their support during these past five years!

When I did my post on Facebook, I neglected to mention a few people who were great Board members and I apologize to them.    They are E.J. Anderson, Suzy Horvath, and Elaine Morrison.  They all served on the Gilbert Board and I appreciated working with them.  I am excited to work with them again on the current override election!

Through a state committee I serve on, I have come to know Bonnie Sneed, president of the Scottsdale School Board.   She epitomizes everything a good Board member should be!

It is hard to believe that two days remain.   I didn't want to forget these Board members who are such a great influence on what happens in a District!  A good Board makes all of the difference in the direction a District will go and it is of extreme importance, especially today with all of the challenges we face in public education.   Thank you to the dedicated people who put children first!!




Saturday, June 27, 2015

Low Country Boil

Kerri, Cameron and I picked Teresa and Yaya up yesterday at the Nashville Airport and drove to Huntsville.   We got to the hotel and of course, many of the family were sitting in the lobby visiting.  I love our big, extended, diverse family!!!   It was great to see everyone.

We went to dinner at Lynn and Beth's house with all of our family and the many Boyers who came from all over.   Lynn III said that he wanted to do something traditionally southern so they did a Low Country Boil which is corn on the cob, sausage, shrimp and potatoes and different kinds of seasoning.  One pot was much spicier than the other.  I am not real adventurous as far as trying different foods is concerned, but I decided to forgo the traditional hot dogs and hamburgers and tried the milder one.  It was excellent, especially the sausage!  




What was the best, though, was visiting with the family and all of my cousins.  I am so glad that we always get together to celebrate the good things in our lives.

Below is a picture of the combined Boyer and Park families who were there to celebrate last night.   We missed Jean and Mike and know that they are here with us in spirit!  Tonight is the party!!!


Day Three--Visits from Gilbert Kiddos

I had previously written about taking my third graders on an overnight field trip.   After I became principal, our sixth graders did the trip for a couple of years.   Then Dottie Dawn started taking her class.  When I was doing the trip, Kartchner Caverns hadn't been opened.  They have added that and the Desert Museum to the trip.  And Kerri did the trip with her fourth graders at the Islands.   Bisbee High had quit letting kids spend the night, so we were able to get Sierra Vista to let them stay at an elementary school for a few years.

My first year in Douglas, they were able to stay at the middle school by our house.  I would have them over for dinner at our house here.   We had hot dogs and bean burros.  One year I did it five times for five different classes.

For two years, the Islands' kids had pen pals from one of the elementary schools here.  We invited each class to meet each other on three different nights.   I have to say that was a lot of beans to cook!!  But it was great to see the kids meet each other.  The Douglas kids waited for the bus in our front yard and then started cheering as soon as they saw it.  It brought tears to my eyes!

Last year, Dottie's class and another fifth grade also did pen pals.  The two classes came down together so we had two classes from Gilbert and two from Douglas for dinner!  That was quite an experience but really fun for the kiddos.  

The Gilbert El kids were the only ones who came this year, so I only had one dinner to fix.   I was able to get tamales for the parents.  This group of students were in kindergarten the year I left Gilbert El so they are the last group of students I know.   It was so awesome to get so many hugs and that they remembered me.  There was also a great group of parents who came along.

I am so happy that we were able to have the Gilbert kids here in Douglas.  And hopefully next year, I can come down and fix bean burros again! 

I think it was the first year that the kids were coming down and we lost our gardener for some reason.  So the grass wasn't looking great and I wanted the yard to look good for the kids to be here.  I called our maintenance supervisor and asked if one of the guys would be willing to come over after hours and take care of the yard.   So he got two guys to come over.  I got home a bit late and they were still here. So I went out to the backyard, and there was my Aunt Teresa sitting on the patio drinking a beer with the guys after they had finished the job!!!!  We always have beer in the garage refrigerator so she offered them a beer and had one with them.  And this was my first year as superintendent!!!!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Day Four--FLI

My first year in Douglas I attended the Arizona School Board Association conference.  The keynote speaker was Consuelo Castillo Kickbusch.  She was the MOST amazing speaker I have ever heard and I did something I have never done before, I waited to talk to her after the keynote.   I told her about Douglas and asked her if she would come and talk to our faculty and staff.

Consuelo did our opening of the school year the following August.  She also came and talked to our high school kids.   I have never seen anything like it before.  She had 1200 students in our gym in the palm of her hand for two hours!  I could go on and on about what an incredible human being she is and what she has done for the betterment of our society!  She truly embodies what servant leadership is all about!

She started a program called The Family Leadership Institute.  We were able to bring this to Douglas four years ago.  I believe in this program more than I have ever believed in a program in my entire career!  I absolutely feel that given five to seven years, FLI can have an impact on the entire community of Douglas.  It is powerful!

There have been so many success stories from parents who have gone through this program.  It empowers them to become leaders in their homes and in their communities.  One Board meeting, we had a local mental health professional get up and tell the Board that she could tell the difference between the kids she saw whose parents went through FLI and those that hadn't.  She even told of two instances where a child was taken off of meds because the parents learned to parent differently.

We have an incredibly dedicated group of parents who absolutely believe in this program and have become facilitators.   I have the utmost respect for them and they have become good friends.  I hope that FLI continues in Douglas because of what I absolutely believe it will do for the children and the whole community!

Consuelo is my shero and I am proud to call her a friend!!!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Nashville

Kerri, Cameron and I flew to Nashville yesterday.  We are on our way to Huntsville, Alabama for my cousins' (Kathy and Lynn) 50th wedding anniversary.  I was a bridesmaid in their wedding and this is really special to me to be able to attend their celebration.  In addition, it is always so much fun for our family to get together.   I really like all of my cousins and that is something special!   Teresa and Yaya are flying in tomorrow and we will pick them up at the airport and drive to Huntsville.

We are staying right by the Grand Old Opry.  I couldn't convince them to go with me which is okay.  So last night we went to dinner and then came back to the hotel.

Cameron wanted to go to Third Man Record Company which is owned Jack White from the White Stripes.  We  headed to downtown Nashville to find it first and then figured we would do some other sightseeing.  

We went to Centennial Park which was amazing!  It had the history of Nashville as you walked down the sidewalk.   When we first got there, we were approached by a lady asking if we wanted to participate in a project.  She explained it and it was absolutely something I wanted to participate.   It is called "Flag for Hope" and the artist who started it is Marcos Antonio.  The website is flagforhope.com.  I am going to post more about it when i have some time as it is an incredible project.  I was so excited about it that one of the people asked for my contact information.

Five Days--Diamond Scholars

I was able to bring another program that was started by Wally Delecki to Douglas in my second year.  I remember many years ago, Wally said that we always honor the athletes, but forget the students who do well in school.  So he started Gilbert Golden Scholars--Academic Night.  It has been a great tradition in Gilbert.

My second year we started a very similar program and named it Douglas Diamond Scholars.  It is for fourth through twelfth graders who do well academically, have good behavior and good attendance.  The attendance piece was important here.  

One of our academic coaches coordinated this event and it has evolved into an incredibly important part of our District.  We honor the fourth through eight graders at 5:30 in the James Brendan Auditorium at DHS.  Then the high school Diamond Scholars are honored at 7:00.  The auditorium is decorated with a "diamond" theme.  The students are presented medals by members of the Governing Board.   

We always have two student speakers and then one keynote speaker.  The first year our keynote speaker was Dr. J.D. Rottweiler, president of Cochise College.   He is a very charismatic speaker and did an excellent job.

The second year, I asked Daniel Hernandez if he would speak.  I had become friends with Daniel over the first few years I was in Douglas.  Daniel was the young man who was at Gabby Gifford's side when she was shot in Tucson.   He was instrumental in saving her life.  And Daniel is an incredible human being.  His speech was also great.

The third year we had Dr. Jim Shockey, Dean of the U of A South.  Dr. Shockey is an amazing administrator who understands the importance of building relationships, even at this level.

And this year our speaker was Mike Rochin.  Mike graduated from DHS and has written a book about his journey in overcoming health issues because of his diabetes.   He talked to the students about how they treat each other being so important.

Because of the change in the way grades are done, we didn't have as many students at the elementary level qualify as in the past.  But we had standing room only for the high school students!!  I believe this shows that great instruction is going on at the elementary level that might not show up immediately in test scores.  However by the time the students get to high school, it does.  Next year they might have to have two separate sessions for the high school.  What a great problem to have!!!

Our local newspaper wrote a wonderful editorial on Diamond Scholar Night and encouraged the District to continue it after I am gone.   I think that they will and I am proud to have been a part of this!!!


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Six--Letter to DUSD Staff

I want to share something today that I wrote to all of our staff after the horrible tragedy that happened in Connecticut:

DUSD Administrators, Teachers, and Staff,

I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you today as we come back after the horrible events that happened in Connecticut on Friday and all of the news coverage over the weekend.  Every shooting that we have had in this country has been a tragedy.   However, what happened on Friday is nothing that can even be processed.   Losing 20 six and seven years olds is beyond belief.   It seems that this has touched the core of everything that is right and wrong in our society today. 

I don't believe that we will ever be able to fully understand or know why  Friday's massacre happened.    There will be all kinds of theories and all kind of reasons that politicians and the media will suggest caused this horrific event to happen. 

I would like to share with you something that I feel strongly about and maybe one thing good can come out of this horrible day.   Public education has been neglected and put down by politicians and the media for quite sometime.    We have had to listen to people saying our schools are failing, teachers need to work harder, we have too many administrators, etc.  But I believe public education is the backbone of our society and has made this country what it is today.  Anyone here can get an education at any time, at any age.   This weekend, we heard about the heroic actions of many of the educators.  Some of them lost their lives trying to protect their children.   This did not surprise me at all.  I have been in education for many years and I don't know of an educator who wouldn't have done exactly the same thing faced with these circumstances!

As you work with the children in your schools today, please know that you are truly heroes in our society!  You come to school every day, walk into your classrooms or offices, and give our children the best that you can.  You do this under difficult circumstances, without adequate funding, and low salaries.  Public education must take every child who comes to us.  We can't be selective.  

We hear how first responders are heroes and they are.  However, teachers and educators are the quiet heroes!    The DUSD administrators, teachers and support staff do an incredible job every day and I am proud to be a part of such a wonderful group of people!!!

You are all HEROES!!

And I mean this for all of the wonderful educators who I have worked alongside these past 43 years!  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Seven Days--Potato Bar

As I stated before, the last several years have been extremely difficult for education in Arizona because of the lack of funding.  It is so sad to think that we are now 50th in the United States.  Our children deserve so much better than this.   Teachers also deserve to be compensated appropriately, as well as support staff.    I believe that this was the most difficult part of my job in that we haven't been able to give raises for such a long time.  I know most districts are in similar positions.  

Although it doesn't take the place of financial compensation, it has always been important to me to try to create as positive an environment to work in as possible.   And I have tried to do this here.   Being a superintendent is so different than being at a site, but I still wanted to have a good working environment.

A tradition that I started was to have a "potato bar" in March around St. Patrick's Day here at the District Office.   The first year, I got all of the ingredients.  Each year after that, we added local ingredients like salsa, jalapenos, etc.   And of course, I had them listen to my Irish music!   That is one of the "perks" of being the superintendent, I had a captive audience so to speak!!

My last Monday of work, all of the District Office staff surprised me with a lunch.  Guess what it was---baked potatoes.   They had carne asada on them and they were delicious.  And Sonya made a beautiful and delicious cake with my picture on it.  And they even played Irish music!!

I am going to miss these wonderful, hardworking and dedicated people!    They are awesome and I feel blessed to have worked with them these last five years!!!


Monday, June 22, 2015

Eight Days--Who Says You Can't Go Home?

When I was teaching, I never thought I wanted to be a principal.  After several years in the classroom, I decided that I would like to get my administrative certification and that is when I went back to school.    I absolutely loved the 20 years that I spent at Gilbert El!   I have liked every position I have held in education, but being an elementary principal is the best job in the world!!!

I never had any aspirations to be a superintendent, but I did get my superintendent's certification when I was working on my principal one.   My wonderful aunt Teresa was living in Douglas alone in the house she was born in and where I was raised.     

Our family was a bit worried about her being alone as she was 88.   In June of 2010, I found out that the superintendent position in Douglas had been reopened when the District did not find anyone in the first search.   So after talking to my family, I decided to apply for it so that I could live with her.   My thought at the time was if I get it great, but if I don't, I have a job that I love.  Well I got it!  I remember packing up my office in one week in July and moving down here.   It was very quick and I didn't have time to even process it all.

I started here July 26, 2010.    School started very quickly after that I so I was thrown in the proverbial "frying pan" very quickly.    

Douglas was a great place to grow up in and I wanted to be able to give back to this community that played a major role in who I am today.   And being able to be with Teresa has been a blessing in so many ways.   

These past five years are probably the worst that someone could be a superintendent because of the funding cuts that have hit Arizona.   There is not a level playing field in this state and I continue to be amazed at the work that the educators here in Douglas do on a daily basis under sometimes difficult circumstances.   

What a five years it has been!!!   Retiring and leaving Douglas is very bittersweet.   I have made some incredible friends here.     Last week I met with all of the District Office employees individually to say good-bye.  There were many tears.   I am going to miss so many of these wonderful people.  

It has been a blessing on many levels and I know that the District is in a better place than when I came five years ago.   It has been quite an experience at so many levels and I will always be so glad that I have been able to be here for these past five years and give back to this community that I love very much!!!!

 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Day Nine--NAU

Wally Delecki has been an incredible mentor and friend to me through the years.  He has given me many opportunities for professional and personal growth.  I will always be grateful for all that he has done for me.

After Wally retired as our superintendent, he began teaching at NAU in the graduate program in Educational Leadership.   He had me co-teach a class with him and did I learn a lot!  This experience provided me with an opportunity to teach for NAU.

From 2002 until just before I left Gilbert, I taught for NAU.  My  first teaching experience was in the summer of 2002 when I taught a leadership class with a co-hort of east valley police officers.  The Ed Leadership Master's was a degree that was recognized by several of the police departments.   What a first class to have--12 police officers and three teachers who were taking the class as an elective!!!

I truly had to be on my toes with this group!   I gained a new understanding of what police officers do each day.   When they leave their homes, there is a chance that they may not come home.   They also deal with all that is wrong in society and I am sure at times it is difficult not to get jaded.   But what a wonderful group of people!  I had three or four other cohorts of public safety officers, but that class was special.   I got to be good friends with a couple of the Gilbert Police officers and kept in contact with them after the class was over.  One in particular will always hold a special place in my heart--Rob Targosz.   Rob was an incredible human being and he was the first Gilbert Police officer to be killed in the line of duty.   I will never forget the day I received that phone call.  I was in Chicago at a conference, and my wonderful secretary, Barb O'Fallon, called me.   She knew how I felt about Rob.  It was devastating news.

Over the next eight years, I taught a couple of special education classes.  I also taught a parental involvement class that was great.  My favorite class was Professional Problems of Teachers.   That class evolved over the eight years as problems changed.   It was great teaching teachers.  It truly helped me grow professionally and personally and I will always value that experience!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ten Days--Quality EDUATION!

I have always tried to make sure that I don't have typos or misspellings when I write.  However, sometimes it happens.  Most of the time it isn't any big deal, but other times it can become  quite the news story!

The year before I became principal at Gilbert El, there was a fairly big spelling error on the marquee.  It said, "Quality EDUATION Week" and had the dates.  Of course, it was picked up by the local media and was in the newspaper.   Like most stories, it was soon forgotten.

However during my first year, Jay Leno got a copy of the picture and it was on the Tonight Show---"Meanwhile, in Gilbert, Arizona, they have "Quality EDUATION Week."  You can only imagine how embarrassing this was!!  I remember Dr. Delecki being a bit upset by us being made fun of on national television!  (I wonder why???)  I remember him telling all of the administrators at many a meeting to please check our marquees!!

Although this did not happen under my watch, the Tonight Show story was when I was principal!  Needless to say, when I gave our building manager (who was not the one who had misspelled education) what was to go on the marquee, I was always very careful and I always checked after the message was put up on the marquee!!!  It is not so great to be made fun of by the likes of Jay Leno, especially on national television!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Eleven Days--Tiger Town Post Office

For many years, Gilbert El had an actual post office as part of the US Postal Service, Tiger Town Post Office (Tiger Town, AZ).   It was a program that they did for schools.  Patty Montgomery and her primary multi-age class ran the post office.  Every classroom had a mailbox and mail was delivered daily.  Students in her class served as postmaster, mail carrier, etc.

She started it because one of her parents works for USPS, Nancy Hamlett.  They worked very hard to get this set up.  We had a contest for the students to name the different sidewalks and walkways throughout the school.   An Eagle Scout's project was to paint the names on the sidewalks.  Some of the names were Tiger Pride Pkwy, Tiger Champs Camp, Black and Gold Gtwy, El Gato Lane, Tigertail Crk, and Whisker's Way.   The students learned to address envelopes correctly.   Parents and grandparents would send cards and letters to Tiger Town and they were delivered to the classroom.   Letters came from all over.

A couple of years Patty actually had the Pony Express come to Gilbert El.  They would take letters from Gilbert to northern Arizona just before Gilbert Days in November and so they came with their horses and picked up our mail.   I remember all of the students being on the playground to see the horses and riders!

Every Wednesday they had a penny drive to raise money for different projects.  One year they raised over $1000 for the Child Crisis Nursery.  Each classroom and the office had jars for people to put a penny in and then the post office students would pick up the money on Wednesdays.   

For several years we had a live news cast every morning.  Tom Waechter, one of our teachers, was in charge of this.  He had an actual "studio" and two students were the anchors.   They made announcements about what was happening on the campus and students could go on to tell about a project or get recognition for something.  It was great!!

As you can tell from all the posts, I was very fortunate to work with such an incredible group of adults who ALWAYS went above and beyond for the students!!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The End of a Very Emotional Week

Today was my last actual physical day in DUSD.  My contract expires June 30 and I will continue to be the Superintendent until then.  I am taking the remaining days off as we have a family event in Alabama next week.

This week I have met with each of the District Office employees to thank them and to tell them how much I have appreciated working with such great people.   There were many hugs and some tears and it was so hard.   I love these people and that is why I have stayed until the very end despite the extreme difficulties that a few people have imposed.   Because of these wonderful people, I have made sure that I have finished and finished strong.

I can't remember when I have had any extended time  off.  I think it was when I was still a teacher.  Yes, I have had vacations, but it is hard to explain that there really is never down time.  Many weeks over the 26 years I have been an administrator, I had my 40 hours in by Wednesday morning.  So many night activities are part of this job.   I never had a regular lunch hour and most days worked through lunch, especially as a principal.  As an administrator, you are always on call.  As a Superintendent, that responsibility is even more all encompassing.

The fact that I don't have to get up and go to work ever again, sounds good right now.  But it is almost too good to believe.  And I know that in a few weeks, I will probably feel very differently.   But I am going to take these next few weeks to rest.

This past week, I have had four phone calls from different people about possible jobs.  And they called me, which is great.  Despite some of the difficulties here, I have made a lot of contacts and have established a very good reputation.  As a matter of fact, the very "fact" that I have stayed and held my head up high has actually enhanced my credentials.  And I have heard that is because of the lack of credibility of the people who make the attacks.  So that is a good thing.

After some rest, I know I will be anxious to see what the next phase of my life might bring.  I know that whatever it is, it will be just as great as the past 44 years.  

What an incredible and amazing career I have had!   I have been so touched by the comments made by so many people down here !!   I will always value these past five years so much!!!

Day Twelve--Hands Across the Border

In about 1996, I went to a conference where we were told about this great exchange program called Hands Across the Border.  It was a foundation that had the approval of the Governors of Arizona and Mexico, the Arizona Department of Education, etc. 

Growing up in Douglas and loving the Mexican culture, I was really excited about this.  I went to another meeting about it and knew that it was something that I would like to bring to Gilbert El.  Dottie Dawn, had moved to Gilbert El from another school, and I approached her and she was willing to be the coordinator.   We had several other teachers and IA's who got very involved, especially Gloria Emanuel, Maria Salas Murphy, Dolores Yanez, Cris Silva and David Minton also helped tremendously.

I mentioned previously about having to go before the Board to ask to go on the Bisbee trip because no one had ever asked to take elementary kids on an overnight field trip.  Well the same thing happened with HATB.   We had to go before the Board and ask permission to take elementary kids overnight and out of the country!   Because it was an established program, the Board approved it. 

Thus began a 10 year incredible adventure with our sister school in Nacozari, Sonora.    Each year we would take about 30 fourth, fifth and sixth graders to Nacozari for three days and two nights.  Then the students from Nacozari would come to Gilbert for the same amount of time.  Each student had a buddy and stayed at the buddy's home.  And what a wonderful experience it was for our kids to get to do!!  I went every year but one and it was just as great an experience for the adults.

Unfortunately after 9/11, it became very difficult for the Mexican students to come to visit us.  The requirements were expensive and time consuming so we had to stop doing it. But what a wonderful program it was and I have such great memories (and some funny stories) of our time with our friends in Nacozari!! 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Thirteen Days Tigerfest/burros

Every year our PTSO had a carnival called the Tigerfest.   One year I volunteered to make some green chili meat and beans for one of the grade levels that had a booth.  I learned to cook great green chili meat and beans from Mary, the wonderful lady who raised us here in Douglas.    It turned out to be a very popular fundraiser so I got "drafted" into doing this every year.  

It became quite a production.  Our wonderful PTSO would buy about 100 pounds of chuck roasts, cook, shred, and freeze them.  Then on the Friday before the Tigerfest, they would deliver it all to my house and I would make the green chili.  For a couple of years I tried to cook all of the meat, but it was too much.  So the ladies helped me out.  Even then, it took me most of the day to make the green chili meat.     On Friday night, I would start cooking the beans and cook them all night.  One year when I was a teacher, my class gave me this great pot that I use to this day.  I was able to cook about 10  pounds of beans.  Of course, I checked on them during the night.  I got up early Saturday, mashed them and added the ingredients that Mary taught me to add.

This became a great tradition and the burritos usually sold out.  We even had families who no longer attended Gilbert El come back and buy them.  

I love to cook and this was always fun.   There were times when we would have some type of contest and the class that won would get a bean burro lunch from me.   

I am sure that there is some health code that I didn't follow, but if that is the worst thing I have done, I am not worried.  

I did give me "secret" recipe to Dottie Dawn after I left Gilbert El and she continues to do this for the yearly festival!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Day Fourteen--Crossing Guard

During the course of my career, I was always willing to do anything to help out in an emergency, except blood!   I had no problem helping out in the cafeteria, answering phones, or whatever might need to be done--just don't ask me to be the nurse.

One day, we were short crossing guards.  Gilbert El is right off of Elliot and Gilbert Road which is a very busy and congested area.  Elliot Road is four lanes and is always busy.     I volunteered to be the crossing guard.  I got my vest on, got my sign ready, and went out the crosswalk--I was official!!  Because of the four lanes, there were always two crossing guards--one on each side of the street.  I had the school side and the wonderful other regular crossing guard went to the other side of the street.  I waited for her guidance as to what to do because she was experienced with all of the traffic.   So she and I each went into the crosswalk with our signs held up and stopped the traffic and there was a lot of it!  The students knew to wait until the crossing guards signaled for them to cross the street.  About 40 students started to cross the street. I was standing in the middle of the east bound lanes with my crossing sign held high when ALL of the students stopped and surrounded me to get a hug!   I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings and not hug them but I couldn't hug that many kids, keep my sign up, and not be there for 10 minutes!  What a dilemma!  And you should have seen the looks on the faces of the people in the cars that were stopped!  Anyway, I encouraged the students to move on and that they would get a hug tomorrow.    We finally got them all across the street and I went back to my post to wait for the next group.   Second time out another large group of students came across and the same thing happened!!!

Needless to say, that was my last time for being a crossing guard on a busy street in Gilbert.   I have always tried to figure out if I had to put "fired" on an application, exactly what I would say was the reason--stopping traffic for hugging??????   Anyway, it was so funny and so touching all at the same time!

Monday, June 15, 2015

An Emotional Day!

Today was my last Monday to get up and go to work.   Although I am excited about that, it was still a very difficult day for me.   I have worked so hard and so long that it doesn't seem possible that all of this is coming to an end.  While I look forward to future possibilities, it is still emotionally draining.

There are so many people who I care so much about.  I am meeting with each one of the District Office employees individually to thank them.  I think I met with about nine today.  Carol, my wonderful secretary, came in after the third or fourth person was there and asked what I was doing them because they all came out with tears in their eyes.  Well the tears were mutual.  I absolutely love so many of the people I work with and saying good-bye and thank you has been very important to me.  These people are incredible and I have been so blessed to work with them.  For me to have this time to individually thank them means so much.  We have developed a mutual respect and I value them so much.   

Tomorrow I continue to meet with more employees.  The hugs and conversations have meant the world to me.  

What an incredible journey this has been.  I am so glad that the positives outweigh the negatives and I feel sorry for the people who can only find fault and do not see the good. 

Fifteen Days--Ed Hawk

I have mentioned the emphasis on testing in our schools.    Over the years, schools have had to deal with both federal and state mandates and rules.   Prior to giving schools grades, the state labeled schools as Excelling, Highly Performing, Performing........   Then the federal government had their own system of determining how schools did.   One  was called AYP, which stands for Adequate Yearly Progress.  There were many different factors that went into determining whether a school made AYP.  One of these ways was the percentage of students who took the AIMS test.

During the school year of 2008, Gilbert El was labeled "Highly Performing" by the state which was the second highest label.   We actually had enough points to be Excelling, but we didn't have enough students in the exceeds category so that was a "ding" for us.    The District had made the decision not to test all of the many special education students we had because it was so stressful for them.   As a result, Gilbert El did not make AYP that year.  

So here we are "highly performing" from the state and "failing" for the feds!   Talk about inconsistency!   And it was very demoralizing to our staff.     As a result, I was given a "coach" from the Arizona Department of Education to help me figure out how to not be failing anymore!!!   It was not fun and it was very difficult because we were doing well in many areas--not that there isn't room for improvement!

I always try to find the humor in situations.  I think that is how I have survived!!  My coach came to meet with me a few times and he didn't really know what to do because the only reason we were failing was because not enough students were tested!  I am not sure how people got to be coaches, but I wasn't real impressed with him. 

One day we were meeting and I was talking to him about all of the things that we were doing in our school improvement plan.  I talked about having an "ad hoc" committee formed (can't remember the reason now).   I continued to talk and a few minutes later he interrupted me and asked, "Who is Ed Hawk?"   I looked at him strangely because I had no idea who Ed Hawk was and certainly didn't remember mentioning Ed's name!  He said that I had said something about Ed Hawk.   Then it dawned on me......"ad hoc" had to have been "Ed Hawk."  I am not sure how on earth that question was asked under that context, but it was.  So from that moment on, my ADE coach was renamed----Ed Hawk!  I don't remember his actual name as he will always be ED HAWK to me!!

When it came time to test, we made sure that all of our sped students were tested.  (I still think this is wrong at many levels.)   As a result, we made AYP and were no longer failing.   And I never had to meet with ED again!!!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Day Sixteen--Henrietta!

One of my favorite stories from the Gilbert El days was our "unofficial mascot,"  Henrietta.   Henrietta was a chicken who arrived on our campus one day and stayed for almost eight years!  And she was quite a character!!!

She knew to stay away from the children.  She lived in the bushes and trees around campus.   After it appeared that Henrietta was going to be a permanent tiger, different teachers starting buying chicken feed for her.  They even supplied it during the summer months.

One time, some people found Henrietta a companion, Big Red.  That didn't last long because Big Red didn't like the children and would go after them.   Henrietta got away from them, but Big Red had a different temperament........ so he had to leave!!

There were times that Henrietta would be upset because there wasn't any food.  If the classroom door was open, she would go in and "cluck" to make sure that she was fed properly!!!   One of the teachers even had her come in during Parent/Teacher conferences to complain about not having food!  In addition, she left a little "calling card" to register her displeasure!

At one point, I wrote different things down that happened with Henrietta because I thought it would make a great children's book should I decide to attempt to write one some day.  However, I can't find it.   So if anyone reading this remembers any Henrietta stories, please share.

We don't know exactly what finally happened to her.  All of a sudden after many years, she was no longer there.   Some chicken feathers were found around the campus.   I have no idea how long a chicken lives, but Henrietta had quite a long tenure at Gilbert El!


Saturday, June 13, 2015

Seventeen Days--Faculty Follies!

One of the greatest traditions that was in place when I got to Gilbert Elementary was the Faculty Follies.  Every year, the staff put together a "full-blown musical" for the kids and Christmas time.  It was incredible and everyone looked forward to it.  

In order to understand how great this was, I am taking a post from a previous blog in December, 2008 about one particular Faculty Follies:

Every year, our wonderful faculty and staff put on a musical for the students at our school. There are three teachers who get together sometime in the fall to write the script for the upcoming Faculty Follies. It is always about something that is happening in the world of entertainment, etc. They always include a take on events that happen in the education world at this particular moment in time. There are always different acts that are posted and different people sign up to be in a certain act. We have two wonderful teachers who always volunteer to be Santa and Mrs. Claus--Tom and Jo. Our wonderful music teacher, Clare, brings this altogether--which is amazing to me.

This year, the children were told that the teachers were too busy to do the Follies and that it really didn't fit into the "state standards." This was done on our morning live news program. Our two anchors urged the students to start petitions to get the Follies back. So students signed petitions on the playground and the Follies were on again.

Over the years, I have seen the kids get so into what was happening, that they actually believe it to be real. One year the Easter Bunny, Father Time and various other characters were beating the Christmas characters on a game show. The kids were incensed that this was happening.

This is probably one of the best things that our school does to build community. The staff has such a great time putting the show together. The students absolutely love to see their teachers and IA's up on stage singing and dancing and having such a good time.

In this day and age of standards, high stakes testing, etc., we can't lose sight of how important that community is to the adults and children who spend so much of their time together. We need to sing and dance and most importantly--laugh at ourselves in order to cope with the every day stresses that constitute our lives.

This wonderful event wouldn't have been possible without Clare Denton, Sue Dunning, Lori Huston, and Robyn Lavin who directed and/or wrote it every year.  And if I left anyone's name off, please let me know!!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Day Eighteen--The Whole Child!

Accountability in education is extremely important.  However, I believe we have gone overboard and are more worried about test results than the actual learning of the child.  And that is a concern to me. 

In the early years at Gilbert Elementary, we were able to offer different options for parents for their children.  We had primary multi-age classes that were first, second and third grade together and intermediate with fourth and fifth grades. We also offered looping in first and second grades where students and teachers moved together to the next grade.   Another incredible program was dual language where students learned in both English and Spanish.   And of course, we had traditional classrooms.  There were many options and we had many boundary exceptions from other schools and other districts.    

Many of these programs have gone away because of the testing demands.   The one thing that I absolutely believe that no matter what is mandated or legislated, no one can ever take away the basic relationship building.  When a teacher closes the door and starts to teach, success will happen when children know that they are cared about.    

I do think that we need to remember the whole child.    Music, art, and PE are incredibly important.   Many children are brilliant in different ways and we can't forget that.   Children are our most important resource in this country and we need to take care of this resource and do the absolute best for the future of our country.   Being an educator is a noble profession and it is sad that there are fewer and fewer people wanting to become educators.  Maybe I will have a new mission in my "next" life................

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Nineteen Days--Social Workers and Tiger Buddies

In the early 90's, Dr. Leona Shreve was my supervisor as she was Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services.   She wrote a grant for Gilbert El that was a restructuring grant that was being offered by the Arizona Legislature and it was a sizable amount of money.  I can't remember how many were awarded, but it there weren't many.   Part of this grant was for a social worker.  We received the grant and I was fortunate enough to hire an incredible social worker, Louise.     I remember telling her at the time that one way to keep this model going in the future when grant money ended was to make sure that she worked on attendance.  Not only is it extremely important for students to be at school so that they can learn, but it is also the way schools are funded!  Students attending means money for the districts to operate.

Thus was born the social work model in Gilbert that is still in place to this day.  Over the years, even when I had so many students, I always said that I would rather have a social worker than have an assistant principal.    There are so many issues in our society and children have so much to deal with because of this and these issues can absolutely interfere with learning.    I wish that every school in the U.S. had some kind of model like this to help our kids!!

The other program that was written into this grant but really didn't cost much money was a mentoring program that we named "Tiger Buddies."   This program paired an adult with a child who might need a little extra "TLC" for whatever reasons.   It was an amazing program.  We were fortunate to be right next to the District Office so many of the DO employees became Tiger Buddies to our kiddos.  They were awesome and would come to events for their buddies at school, bring them lunch, or just drop in for a visit.  There were many times that I would deal with a discipline issue and find out that something traumatic had happened to a child and we would call on the Tiger Buddy for some help.   This program grew through the years.   A few years ago, I received an email from one of the DO Tiger Buddies telling me about her former buddy, who was then 19, coming to visit her and thanking her for all she had done for me.  That story (and many others) touched my heart.  Not only did this program help the kids, I think it did a lot for the adults.  I know that it did for me just being a part of it!

I am so grateful to have been a part of both of these wonderful endeavors that I believe have helped so many children.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Twenty Days--Summer Hiring and Growth

The growth happening in Gilbert during those days was amazing!!  At that time, elementary principals were on a 10 1/2 month contract.  Because I had done HR for that period of time, I continued to work every summer assisting with the enormous amount of hiring that had to be done to keep up with the growth.  I would meet with the candidates that were recommended by principals, do a short interview, and then determine salary and benefits, etc.   Each candidate who was recommended was given a letter of intent.  Most of the MANY teachers I hired during those days accepted on the spot.  Some summers between 200 and 300 teachers were hired and I did a lot of the hiring.  I did this every summer from 1989 until 2001 when principals went to 12 month contract. Gilbert did not pay as well as surrounding Districts, but during those days most teachers wanted to work here.   It was because of the positive environment that was created by the leadership of Wally Delecki and I saw it first hand.   What I learned is that people will take less money in order to be valued and treated with dignity and respect!!!   Being able to hire all of these teachers was an incredible experience as it was always so positive because "they were getting jobs in a great district!"

At the same time, Gilbert El was starting to grow.   New housing was being built and we started to outgrow our campus.   So came the portables!!    There was a time that we had over 1200 students and my staff was well over 100.   When I look back on it now, I don't know how I did this all by myself as the only administrator!  But times were different and the accountability from the state and feds was nothing like it is today (and I was a lot younger)!   I was able to hire some incredible teachers who had student taught at Gilbert El, as well as others who transferred in or were hired from the outside.    It was a great blending of experienced teachers and new teachers!  In addition, the support staff grew and there so many great people who came to work as classified staff.  My philosophy has always been and will always continue to be that everyone contributes to the success of an organization no matter what duties he/she might have.   It takes everyone working together to accomplish the tasks at hand!  I believe that philosophy has served me well!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Day Twenty-One--Top Cats, Etc.

Being an elementary principal is a great job!   No matter how bad the day was, all I had to do was walk out of my office and I would get more hugs than I could count!

One of the things that was most important to me was to learn the students' names.  I really worked hard on that.    And the kids loved it.   

We had several positive programs, but the one that meant the most to me was Top Cats (thank you Connie Honaker for helping with the name).   Every Friday, a student from every class was the Top Cat for the following week.   We called their names over the intercom and each student came up and got a Top Cat prize, a fast food coupon and their picture taken.   We had a Top Cat bulletin board in the office that Dee Mendias was in charge of and she made sure it always looked great.   Every Monday she would get the pictures and put them up with the kids names.  They kids (and parents) loved having their pictures on the bulletin board.    

Then on Monday I had lunch with the Top Cats at a special table in the cafeteria.   They got their lunches and I was able to give them a treat.   For many years it was three red vines and then we had rules about what we could give kids so I had to change to something "healthy."     The greatest part of this was that every student was a Top Cat so I got to eat lunch with every child.  This is one of the ways I learned their names (and a whole lot of other things)!!!  Monday lunch was a sacred time for me!

We also did birthday balloons with a picture of our mascot, a tiger cub, on them.  Every day we announced whose birthday it was and the kids came up for their birthday balloons.  We made sure to get all of the summer birthdays in, as well as holidays, vacations, and weekends.  Many times parents would come to school to take a child's picture getting the balloon from me

We also had "Tigerrifics" which were given to kids caught doing positive actions.  They kids would bring them to the office and put them in a special box and then each day I would pull one from the box and announce the student's name and his/her positive action.   They would come to the office and get a "Tigerrific" prize.

I have always felt that building relationships is the single most important thing that you can do for children in order for them to learn.   And these were things that helped build those relationships.  I am proud to say that I am still in contact with many of these former students and families to this day!!!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Back to Reality

The wonderful Caribbean vacation has ended and I am back in Douglas and back to reality!  What a great eight days it was.   Curacao is a beautiful country!  I was impressed that it isn't a tourist trap and the people are totally laid back and genuinely nice.    It was so relaxing and will enable me to make it through the next two weeks and the end of this part of my journey.

Yesterday was a very long day.  We left for the airport about 5:00 a.m. and flew to Miami.  We got to Miami around 11:30 and got through Customs.  I don't know what I was thinking (or not thinking) about the return trip.  Our flight didn't leave until 8:00 p.m. so we had a very long layover at the airport.  I read an entire book so that was a good thing. 

Got back to Gilbert around 11 p.m so basically we had almost been up for 24 hours.   I am tired, but it is a good tired.

Teresa and I drove back to Douglas today and got here about 4:45.   Had quite a bit of rain around St. David and Tombstone.  It is cloudy and cool here right now.

I have to be at work at 6:30 tomorrow morning as we are on our 4 day/10 hour work week now.  Have  a Board meeting tomorrow night.    I will be finishing up with my job as superintendent over the next two weeks--packing my office and packing my things here at 858. 

What a journey these past five years have been!  There have been good times and bumps, but overall, it has been a wonderful experience! 

Twenty-Two Days--New Campus

So began my 20 year adventure as an elementary school principal.  Oh the stories that could be told......

The 90/91 school year, we moved back to the newly remodeled Gilbert El.   It is probably the most beautiful elementary school in the US.  There are 19 individual cottages that were there originally.  They had been gutted and redone.  All of the other buildings had been torn down and new classrooms, multi-purpose room and office were built around the cottages.  They were able to save many of the old trees.  In between the classrooms is grass and places for students and teachers to be outside.   Some teachers had gardens, etc.

I remember the first day of school, the sprinklers hadn't turned off and the two kindergarten classrooms were flooded.   We had to move them to empty classrooms which we had at that time, but wouldn't later.  The District had to come in and put some "holes" in the fences around the perimeter to keep flooding from happening again.

I was able to start some traditions that I had learned from my days at Houston.   I will post more about them tomorrow.

Gilbert El was just starting to grow so I had to hire new teachers.  I will also write more about this incredible growth in a later post. 

I remember one day sitting in my office and all of a sudden thinking about the incredible responsibility I had as a principal.  It wasn't just my 30 kiddos in my classroom that I was responsible for but almost 700.   Wow!!   I always did my absolute best for my students and that day I remember thinking that I had way more to do now.  And I hope that I always did the very best I could for every student I have ever had the privilege to work with through the years!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Day Twenty-Three--Principalship YEAH!

I finished the year as HR Director and knew that it was only for that year.  I was finishing up my administrative certification and would be ready for a principalship.   There were two openings that I was interested in for the 89-90 school year.  One was the principal of Gilbert Elementary, one was for the new school that was opening, Val Vista Lakes Elementary.

I really wanted to go VVL as I wanted to start a new school with new traditions, etc.  However, Wally had other plans and wanted me to go to Gilbert El.  And I cannot thank him enough for giving me that opportunity! 

That first year the Gilbert El was being remodeled so we moved to the holding school.   I mentioned this before.  Gilbert had a school made up of portable buildings that was used almost every year as a different school while schools were being built.  The growth was tremendous and this was the only way they District could keep up with it.  I had actually taught at the holding school the year before when it was Houston.  

We had about 650 students who all had to be bused and that in itself was quite an experience.  The students had all walked to school previously.

The staff was pretty much set but I was able to bring Patty Montgomery with me as she and I had taught together at Patterson.  I was also able to hire one new teacher for kindergarten, Kami Nicholas.   I had worked with many of the teachers previously and it was great to work with them in this capacity.   

I will always be grateful to Belinda Burrow and Ciria Virzuela, our office staff.  They helped me out so much and made my first year as principal so much better.

I have much to share about those years--just hope I have enough posts left!!

Being principal of Gilbert El for 20 years was the best job in the whole world!!   

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Last Day in Paradise!

The Caribbean vacation has come to an end.  I just finished packing everything as we have to be up and out by 5:00 a.m.    American Airlines says to be there 180 minutes before the flight.  Patrick called and we don't really need to be there that early.  But he has enough of his mother in him to want to be "on time" so we will be leaving here early.   

It has been a wonderful eight days.  I have so enjoyed spending time with my kids.   Depending on what happens in my life as far as a job is concerned, this might be the last  big one!!!    It has been an amazing eight days!

I would never have thought to come to this island.  It is a wonderful place.  It is not terribly expensive and people are really laid back which is what I have needed in my life for quite some time!!!

We have a long layover in Miami tomorrow.   Don't get back to Phoenix until almost 10.   Judy will pick us up and Teresa will be at the house to go back with me to Douglas for the final few weeks that we will be there.

I love the relaxed life style here.   People are very friendly and very nice.  It is not a tourist trap and that has been so nice.   I will post pictures in later blog posts as there have been so many beautiful places.

Ireland is still my favorite place to visit and I hope to go there again someday.  But I would come back here in a minute.  

So what ever life brings my way in the next several years, the memories here will never be gone.  

Kerri says she isn't going back.  Cameron wants to go back so I may have to "adopt" him if she isn't on the plane tomorrow!!!  Things could be worse!!!!

What a great eight days!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Twenty-Four Days---Interim HR Director

During the 87-88 school year, Dr. Delecki was the acting HR Director in addition to being Superintendent.  The reason for this is that Gilbert High School needed a principal very quickly that summer.   They were moving into the new facility and had really grown.  So Paul Huston, HR Director, went to GHS to be principal for the year.   Being HR Director was a big task in itself as the growth was just starting to happen and happen quickly.

Wally and I met regularly in my role as GEA president and he knew that I was working on my admin certificate.   During our many discussions he asked if I would be interested in being interim HR Director for the next school year as they were keeping Paul at GHS another year.  Needless to say, I jumped at this wonderful opportunity.  I still had classes to take to finish my certification, but I could be a director without the admin certification.  

It wasn't official until the end of May.  I will never forget packing up my classroom after 17 years of teaching on Thursday and becoming Interim Director of Human Resources on Monday (June 6--definitely a day that will live in infamy in my life and how amazing that it is June 6 today when I write this)!!!!

I also took 12 hours in summer school.  Fortunately, my kids went to Douglas for the summer so I didn't have that worry.   They loved spending summers in Douglas so it was great all the way around.  

I learned more in that little over a year than I could have ever learned from taking classes and reading.   I watched the way  Wally interacted with people and it was amazing.  I talked to Paul almost every day and he walked me through different issues.   I worked with Brad Barrett and learned so much about school finance.  And of course, Leona was there in curriculum.

That year I also met and became lifelong friends with two great people--Nikki Blanchard and Jill Bowers.   Nikki was the new assistant principal at Gilbert Junior and Jill was the new principal of Mesquite Jr High.

It was an incredible experience and I will always be grateful to Wally for giving me this wonderful opportunity.    I believe that year prepared me for the next 25 more than anything else!!