Let’s build a bridge for those students who follow

As we say goodbye to 2008, I thought it appropriate to talk about how far we’ve come as a school district this year and to touch upon where we want to go as stewards of tomorrow.

  • Tuesday, December 30, 2008 1:16pm
  • Opinion

By TERRY LINDQUIST

For The Beachcomber

As we say goodbye to 2008, I thought it appropriate to talk about how far we’ve come as a school district this year and to touch upon where we want to go as stewards of tomorrow.

Today, the community clearly supports the school district. In a recent random telephone survey of Island residents (commissioned by the school board to assess the community’s attitude toward a potential capital bond), nearly 75 percent graded our schools’ performances an A or B, and 76 percent rated the quality of programs we offer an A or B. These scores are more than 25 points higher than the average rating of school districts in this state.

In addition, scores for how the district manages it funds exceeded the state average by 10 points, and, very importantly, the strongest support for our schools from any demographic group came from our parents. This kind of support doesn’t come easily. Thank you.

In 2009, there is more important work to be done. The school board is facing three critical decisions that will affect our future: Finding a new superintendent; balancing a budget during a financial crisis; and passing a bond to renovate our schools — all issues that require thoughtful solutions.

We’ve heard the lament before — especially when the economy is struggling or a state budget crisis looms — that we need “better leadership.” And certainly in some cases that may be true. Peter Block in his book, “Stewardship, Choosing Service over Self Interest,” suggests that when we talk about the need for leadership maybe we’re really seeking “stewardship.” Block describes stewards as “those who see beyond the political ramifications and limitations and instead choose a course of action which best serves the next generation to come, … those (who) will follow us on the trail.” Put another way, he describes stewardship as “holding something in trust for another.”

There is a wonderful story of three travelers who were making their way across the countryside. They came upon a well-worn, rickety rope bridge hanging across a ravine that fortunately held together long enough for each of them to make their way safely across. A short while later on their trek, two of the travelers noticed that the last of them to cross was nowhere to be seen. Backtracking on the trail, they came across their companion busily at work, repairing and rebuilding the rope bridge.

Securing and strengthening the bridge for all who would come behind on the trail: a simple concept really, but a very powerful one as well.

Think of the powerful impact that this concept can have if we unite our Vashon community to move forward on the initiatives we have started: a strategic plan, curriculum alignment, sustained professional development, a balanced budget, model policies, multi-year labor agreements and a renovated high school.

Consider for just a moment the positive generation we could nurture to become our future leaders, our “stewards” of tomorrow. One thing is for certain: There will always be daunting challenges and difficult decisions for our children and our future leaders. They will also likely face similar budgetary crises and economic realities as well as a host of societal challenges.

Maybe the fundamental question is, “What do we want for those who would follow behind?” Are we content to simply cross this bridge, or are we concerned about the condition of the bridge for those who will walk behind us? Maybe the answer to that question, and for many of the challenges we face today, is in actuality the difference between leadership and stewardship.

There is no doubt that we face challenging times and problems. However, as a school system and as a community we are, I believe, up to the task. In the words of President-elect Obama, “Yes, we can.”

Thank you, Vashon, for your caring support. Let’s build a bridge.

— Terry Lindquist is the superintendent of the Vashon Island School District.


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