In the day before break, I took the opportunity to spend some time in the buildings simply visiting with staff and students.  My hidden driver was the desire to check out all of the ugly sweaters (and other festive attire).  I got the added gift of a 7th grade Language Arts class performing a dance for me.  I’m very glad I thought twice about volunteering to have them teach it to me.

It was delightful, made me smile and made me remember why I’ve chosen to do what I do.  West Burlington is a great place for kids and we have such committed staff supporting them on their journey of growing up.

I’ve spent most of the last week in meetings and at training in Des Moines. The topics have often been deep and heavy. They make your mind hurt. The last wrapped up two days of learning around school finance and included a luncheon presentation by this year’s SAI Superintendent of the Year, Joel Pederson, from Cardinal.

He opened his presentation with “I’m not going to talk to you about what I had planned, because of something that happened several weeks ago. We’re not talking about finance, the legislation, or my wisdoms.”

He continued to tell the story that several weeks ago he had received a call from the family of a student he had when he was a junior high principal in another district and he had not seen or heard from the former student for years.  The family member called to ask him to speak at the former student’s funeral as the 24 year-old had taken his life. There was a sense of somberness that overcame the room.

Then he drove home the point that student success in school is driven by the connections and relationships made with adults. While as superintendents and business officials we deal with the myriad of operational and financial demands before our districts, we are fundamental to building and maintaining cultures that ensure connectedness not only for students, but also our staff and our communities.

When I think about those concepts of connectedness and relationships especially in this season of reflection and celebration, one of the many gifts that West Burlington Independent Schools can celebrate is our student population size.  Our classes and buildings are not so small that our students and staff have no one to create a relationship with that fits their needs, nor are we so large that there are too many students or staff to create strong relationships amongst each other.  It is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children. Often we can get caught up in life and forget to see and celebrate those things right before us. This I believe is worth celebrating.

The holidays and all of their celebrations bring us full circle and back to the heart of our being, for it is through the relationships and connectedness we have and hold dear, and too, through those we’ve lost that we find joy and sorrow and that we grow and learn.

Treasure the joy as well as the sorrow. Be patient and kind. Give the extra shoulder or time to help others through when you see them in need.  Connect and may you and yours be safe and have the happiest of holidays.