It is interesting, being new to the Valley, to join in and listen to community conversations. The kerfuffle in a recent survey about the LOVE sculpture on the Plaza surprised me a bit. I didn’t realize how emotionally folks might respond on either side of that discussion. When I first came to the Valley one community member said to me something like, “We are passionate about everything in Sonoma. Sometimes that is good and sometimes perhaps not.” When it comes to students in our Valley, we all are passionate about each child’s success. That is a good thing, and must be true in order for our community to thrive.
The School District recently embarked on a series of listening circles in the community. We are following a long tradition. In 2013 the district held a strategic planning process. In 2015, there was a profile of graduating students that spoke to the qualities we hope to foster in our older students. Just recently, in 2017, the Equity and Inclusion Task Force conducted listening circles as well. (Note: all of these documents are available at https://www.sonomaschools.org under Strategic Planning).
All of this feedback, coupled with the ideas, dreams, and experiences of the most recent in-person and survey participants, will help us as a district community to narrow our focus and clarify what success looks like. Importantly, it will help provide us the time necessary to devise long-term solutions that we can invest in over time. In public education, our investment is most visible in our people. They are our greatest asset. We are a “people business” and therefore attracting, recruiting, and retaining the brightest and best to serve our community is critical. Investing in their success –- including the resources each employee has available to them and the professional development they receive to be lifelong learners no matter the position –- is what the district system is built to do.
In public education, love must win the day. The type of love that must surround students is that of a professional nature, a mutual admiration built on respect, integrity, and hope. It is the type of love we desire in each child’s classroom experience. It is also the type of love we want in our community – where we believe in the adage “it takes a valley.” We need to know that the love in the community bridges an “us versus them” mentality, that this commitment to the social good generates a “we” mentality, building communal assets and opportunities together. Certainly it is a love that recognizes the hard work and integrity of every member of our district community that creates a climate of inclusion and opportunity for students and families.
I have been in this beautiful valley for nearly nine months. I have seen all these types of love thriving, growing, and spreading. It fills my heart to know we all care for the youth of our community and see their success as the true measure of love and prosperity for the community. I am grateful for all my colleagues in the district who demonstrate and model for me what dedication and hard work look like and how love blooms in Sonoma Valley.