My personal memories and emotions from this past year are widespread. My son graduates from high school tomorrow, and he just received notice yesterday that he is the Salutatorian of his class. My heart is filled with joy at his accomplishments. There is also a great sense of relief. I am grateful that this stage of his education is over, and we are ready to move on to the next phase.
As Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Cheyenne I receive quite a number of phone calls from parents during the course of a year. There is usually a concern being expressed about one facet or another of their child's education. Most parents are seeking the best for their child and that is laudable. I also believe most teachers are striving to fulfill their mission well, but meeting the expectations of the students, the parents, and the principal all at once can be a daunting task.
I saw the issue from both sides of the fence this year. The workload of my son during his senior year was overbearing. I understand the desire of the school district to push students to success, but at what price is this goal achieved? My wife and I hope that our son continues to pursue his academic objectives in college with vigor and with great success. My concern is that the joy of learning has been squelched due to his experience of this past year. How do we strike a balance between academic rigor, standardized assessments, and plain old common sense?
As an administrator I am repeatedly confronted with differing viewpoints on nearly every aspect of education. It is not simply about setting goals and utilizing standards and benchmarks to evaluate if these goals are being met. The formation and education of a child encompasses so much more. This is especially pertinent in a Catholic school where the proclamation of the Gospel has to be first and foremost in our minds. Educating for eternity is the primary mission of the Catholic school. If parents have simply selected a Catholic school because it is a private school, the potential for conflict rises dramatically. As a private school we hope that academic rigor is in place and the child will be well-educated. However, we can never lose sight of the essential mission to evangelize and catechize.
The emotions attached to memories became abundantly clear to me in recent weeks when it was announced that one of our Catholic schools will be closing at the end of this academic year. More than once I heard about the history of the school and how it impacted a family. One person called and said, "I went to school there. My kids went to school there. Now my grandkids are going to school there." The heartbreak is real. Memories are powerful. As an administrator I recognize the objective difficulty of trying to maintain a school (K through 6) with less than two dozen students. The subjective part of me understands clearly the pain and sadness of those closely attached to the school and its mission.
It has been a challenging year for me personally and professionally in a multitude of ways. Through it all I continue to learn and grow. I saw an old meme recently pop up again which states, "As long as there are tests there will be prayer in schools." I am here to tell you that it isn't just the students who offer prayers for assistance once in a while. God's grace is frequently sought by teachers and administrators in the process as well. That has been a lesson I have been taught on a repeated basis since entering the field of education.
Congratulations to all of the graduates! Regardless of what stage of education you are completing, I offer you my prayers for a wonderful transition to whatever is in store for you at the next phase of life. To all of you that experienced significant struggles and challenges in this previous year or throughout most of your educational experience, I simply say hang in there. Even if you did not achieve "good grades," God's grace is still there. Thankfully, we never graduate from experiencing God's love!