Friday Focus – 9-6-2019

Dear Team,

“In a world where you can be anything…be kind.” Thanks Caraway Elementary for such a powerful bulletin board.

Sometimes the tragedies of the world consume us. They are hard to turn away from — ever-present, on every screen, on the news, in our social media stream — and to ignore them seems heartless, maybe even cowardly. But with so much bad news in the world sometimes turning away is a form of self-preservation.

Then other times the tragedies come too close together and too close to home, and we cannot help but be consumed by them. To feel frustration, helplessness and despair. I’ve been there, having lost my oldest sister to a senseless act of violence in February 1985. No parent should ever have to bury a child. That’s how I felt after the terrible tragedy in El Paso where innocent men, women, and children were slaughtered in a Walmart, many as they shopped for back-to-school clothes and supplies, followed just hours later by the shootings in Dayton, Ohio. Sadly, these types of events are starting to become our new normal in America. Then this past weekend, we witnessed the senseless violence that claimed lives in the Odessa-Midland area. I am from San Angelo (a proud Central Bobcat, I might add!). I taught in West Texas schools, played and later coached ball teams that competed against the Odessa Bronchos and Permian Panthers. I’ve driven a few times up and down 42nd Street where much of the violence took place. These events, one after another, make the evil in our world become so pronounced it is all we can focus on. Let’s not ever grow numb from these senseless tragedies because then we may never find solutions that are so desperately needed.

In times like these, when sadness overtakes us and it feels like the world is losing its light, there is one thing that reignites my hope: Focusing on our students and the opportunity we have every day to impact the future. Not being fatalistic, but let’s face it, there will always be tragedy in our world. There will always be heartbreak, both on a personal level and large scale through events that rock our communities, our nation, our very soul. But how fortunate are we as educators, and those that support educators, to be in a profession where there is always kindness and hope? For us, there is always opportunity. There is always tomorrow to reach a child who is struggling, to help them achieve their potential, to make them feel loved, safe and at home. These are victories, every day, where good overcomes evil.

We, as a nation and as human beings, cannot succumb to despair. And we, as educators, must take up the banner of kindness and hope. There is so much anger in this world, but a loving heart will always prevail. I’m not advocating for turning a blind eye to injustices, atrocities and evil in the world. We can, we will, we must find ways to be champions for good. We can focus on the positive by nurturing the light in our 51,000 students.

There is an oft-repeated quote attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that goes:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

This quote impacted me so much, I did a little research and found that it’s not actually a direct quote, but a paraphrasing of a point Dr. King made in a sermon in 1965, the day after “Bloody Sunday” when civil rights protestors were attacked on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. In his sermon he speaks of standing up for what is right, no matter the cost. In Dr. King’s case, it cost him his life.

Early morning, April Four
Shot rings out in the Memphis sky
Free at last, they took your life
They could not take your pride
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?
In the name of love
What more in the name of love?—U2’s Pride

I hope none of us ever have to face violence to stand up for what is right. But I do believe that we all have a calling to protect and serve our students. To champion every child who enters our classroom and help them succeed. To create a stronger community and a brighter future for Texas and our nation. Let’s always choose love over hate, good over evil! I believe in us and that kindness and hope will always prevail.

So, when the evil in the world seems too much to bear, remember that we are fighting on the right side. We stand for kids!  Never lose faith that good shall overcome.

“In a world where you can be anything…be kind.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.

Respectfully,

Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools