This post isn’t really about how I’d be a better school board member than anyone else. In fact, if anything, this reflects great accomplishments under the current school board. (Not that I’m necessarily looking to oust an incumbent — one of the incumbents is on the ballot but has since decided that he’d rather not serve another term.) It’s about what a strong school system we have and why I want to continue helping it to stay strong.
This week, there were two pretty remarkable stories showing the strength of our system. The first was an October 13, 2020, New York Times story about Cumberland Elementary.The story is about a firefly project Mrs. Samudio, a second grade teacher, worked on from 2015 through 2017 in conjunction with people from Purdue and the Bezos founded Blue Origin rocket company. One of her students asked her whether a firefly would light up in space. She posed the question to a professor she knew at Purdue who suggested that they didn’t have to guess, instead, they could do an experiment:
Following Dr. Collicott’s suggestion, Ms. Samudio’s children at Cumberland got to work, collaborating with Purdue students in Dr. Collicott’s classes.
“For the next two years, I had aeronautical engineers in my second-grade classroom teaching mini-lessons on basic principles of flight and propulsion as well as the basic principles of ‘firefly’ chemistry,” Ms. Samudio said.
On December 12, 2017, an apparatus that replicated the chemistry of how fireflies generate light went up in space. Dr. Collicot attended the launch, and two days later reported that, in fact, fireflies can glow in space.
The second was a NICHES school ranking for 2020 that put West Lafayette Community School Corporation as top in the state & twelfth in the nation, and its teachers as top in the state and number four in the nation. Now, you can pick at this ranking in a bunch of different ways: school rankings are largely proxies for socioeconomic status, West Lafayette benefits from a lot of educated parents, even highly ranked schools might be leaving kids behind. There is validity to all of that, but the fact remains that West Lafayette schools are accomplishing a lot notwithstanding the fact that they start with a lot of advantages. There plenty of school districts in the country with more money than us who are, nevertheless, below us in the rankings.
Even while we search for our problem areas and seek to make them better, we should not forget to take pride in the school system we’re building and give credit where it is due. Sometimes, I think folks are hesitant with praise – even where it’s appropriate – because they think that might breed complacency. But the flip side is that despair has a tendency to slip in if we don’t praise the praiseworthy. (“Nothing’s ever good enough. Why try?”)
We’re part of a very special school system in which we can take pride, and we should never take that for granted. If elected to the school board, I intend to remain cognizant of that fact, taking care to maintain what we have even as we seek to make improvements where we fall short. As the saying goes, “examine all things; hold fast to what is good.”