As we approach the start of the traditional school year, I have high hopes for a tremendous school year. These hopes are based on what I have seen here in Indianola the last five years: outstanding students, tremendously talented and caring staff, supportive community, excellent resources, and top notch facilities. I really am not just hoping great things are going to happen; I am sure they will!
Another hope– and a personal priority of mine this year– is for strong connections to be made between all of our different stakeholders. On one level these connections are very evident. I can come up with a huge list of things in the recent past or near future. Here are just a few. Officer Hackett is set to start work as a school resource officer through a partnership between the school and city. The RAGBRAI overnight went very well through the efforts of the city, Simpson, Indianola CSD, awesome committee leaders, and an army of volunteers. ICYF and the school will host a fun event, the Back to School Bash, Saturday from 6:00-8:00 P.M. at Indianola Stadium. Hy-Vee frequently does fundraisers to support students battling disease, Wal-Mart and the Salvation Army made a huge school supply donation, Indianola Young Professionals will make a sizable donation ($10,000 this year) for the second year in a row to go toward unpaid student lunch accounts. Rotary, Kiwanis, and some passionate individuals teamed up to make the inclusive playground at Pickard Park a reality. Businesses belonging to the Chamber donated wonderful gift bags to new teachers. City State Bank will donate and serve breakfast to staff as they come to “District Day” Friday, something City State has done for years. This is not an exhaustive list.
There are a whole host of individual relationships that I hope will be strong connections this year, too. Student-teacher, employee-supervisor, department colleagues, teammates and classmates, coach-athlete, director-musician, teacher-parent, superintendent-board, teacher-PTO, principal-student: these relationships are in no particular order and do not encompass all of the interactions that happen in a school community. I hope that people in all of these relationships will approach each other with positive personal regard and genuine warmth and concern. I hope that everyone will assume good intent, and if you have to gossip, spread positive gossip!
While social media seems to be a magnet for negativity and outrage sometimes, I hope that civility and respect can be the norm in both the public arena and in personal relationships. “Seeking first to understand, then to be understood,” as Stephen Covey wrote, is a good reminder that we need to be empathetic. We need to realize, too, that everyone has challenges we probably know nothing about. Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird, which I was fortunate enough to teach for over a decade, says it well: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view– until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
We have such a tremendous opportunity to connect with people, serving in schools and living in a town like Indianola. I am making it my mission this year to form strong relationships, to understand others, to serve effectively where I can, and to view challenges as opportunities to emerge stronger and smarter. Thank you in advance for everything you will do in the service of this goal as we travel through the upcoming school year!