Let’s work together to make our schools great


Editor’s note: Gene Lipitz made these comments at last week’s Vashon Island School District board meeting, where he stepped down after four years on the board.


It has been an honor and a wonderful journey serving our schools. I am glad for the opportunity. Dr. (Terry) Lindquist, thank you for agreeing to husband our institution through a difficult period. I was elated to see you set down your vision for our schools in The Beachcomber (last) week for everyone to see. It is a sensible vision, although sensibility by no means guarantees ease of adoption. You, I know, will work hard and well to see that vision made real.

I would like to take the liberty to give some counsel to the new board, excellent staff and caring community who care about this institution that so essentially serves our Island children: Help the superintendent help us build a foundation for good decision-making, not just for the coming months but for the coming decades, not just for the students in front of us right now but for a whole generation of students. We truly have a unique opportunity to serve our community well through Terry Lindquist.

To do this we must guard against complacency. Always strive to be better. When we talk about going from good to great, don’t respond, “Well, we are already great,” even in your own minds — because, even though that’s true in some respects, this is an attitude that leads to decline. Similarly, be open and honest that we do sometimes, sadly, fail our children. And be optimistic that our failures can be teachable moments and can be overcome.

Finally, all of us, I hope, will embrace the concept of accountability. Forget the political connotations that this word has taken on the national stage. Accountability is not properly about blame. When seen this way, folks who should be accountable say, “Well, I can’t control all the variables: My children are undernourished, or I don’t have enough resources,” or other factors that are, to some extent, truly out of their control.

Real accountability does not require direct or even indirect control over all factors, and, indeed, there is almost no situation in our private or public lives where we do have such complete control. Despite this, people who demonstrate leadership in their lives take accountability for all the things they care about in this world, whether it be the environment, their church, the community or education. This is because they realize in their heart that accountability isn’t about blame, but ownership. If one is not accountable for something, one does not really own it in an intellectual or spiritual sense. So a sense of ownership by all members of this community we call Vashon schools is essential if we are going to go from good to great.

Therefore I would entreat you, directors, faculty, staff and other friends: Instill a sense of accountability in yourselves and in others in the work you do here, and the rest will become details. You will have served this community and this district very, very well.

— Gene Lipitz is a financial manager and the father of two young girls.