Texting Wednesday with a resident of Inverness Villages 4 to see how things are in her community when she mentioned that her husband and I attended the same Michigan high school.
“Say what?” I responded. “Stevenson?”
Yup. She gave me her husband’s name and I didn’t recognize it even though he graduated in 1973, only three years ahead of me, which means we shared the same hallway space.
That brought back memories for sure. Truth, though: I’m glad when fall rolls around that I’m not going back to school.
I realize that’s the downer approach to today, the first day of school. Kids, parents, teachers, bus drivers, administrators — summer vacation ends for the whole lot and another round of education starts back up.
Schools are somewhat of an enigma to me. Overall, not wonderful memories but I can’t argue with the results. It’s through school that I found friends, learned what I might want to do in life, and started to trust grownups.
School confused me and confounded me. It encouraged me one day and tripped me up the next. I had wonderful teachers whose names still bring a smile, and we connect on Facebook. A few others had a mean streak who liked to take it out on shy, skinny kids.
I was quite fortunate at the Chronicle to land the school board beat though I didn’t think so at first. As a government, the school district is extraordinarily complicated. The funding rules from Tallahassee and, my gosh, the oversight, is outrageous.
So, some thoughts for Day 1 of 180:
— The thing about writing about politics is to see how easily people are fooled by slick politicians. This whole “give parents rights over their kids” is a bunch of hooey. Parents, you NEVER LOST that right. Never ever. It’s politicians who have you convinced that it’s smart to target your kid’s teacher for ridicule.
We didn’t do this 10 years ago. Or five, for that matter. Did public education suddenly fall apart in the last few years? Have we been fooling ourselves that we’re educating kids, when in reality we’re doing whatever it is the angry anti-public education people think we’re doing?
I realize the world is a different place. Some boys become girls and some girls become boys. But here’s the deal: They’re still KIDS! The adults need to get a grip.
— I mentioned the challenge of covering the School Board for the Chronicle. Well, here’s what made it easier: I started writing classroom feature stories as well.
The School Board deals in high-level stuff. It wasn’t until I saw it played out in the classroom that I began to see the connection.
The walls of my old Chronicle desk were covered with school entry stickers. Before the Jessica Lunsford Act unified everything, each school had its own visitor sticker with its own personality.
I’d be having a rough day, tell myself I don’t have time to waste in a classroom, walk into a school and walk out an hour later refreshed and smiling because for 45 minutes I watched a teacher and students do something cool. I never knew what to expect.
That is what school offers. It fires the imagination of young people.
— When I attended my final School Board meeting as a Chronicle reporter, I did something quite rare for me: I went to the microphone for 3 minutes.
I told board members that, while I had not grown up in Citrus County, I considered myself a product of the Citrus County School District. Superintendent Sandra "Sam" Himmel, her assistants, board members, principals, teachers and kids all had a rather profound effect on my general way of looking at life.
That’s the thing about schools. Where else do we find such hallways of hope? The Courthouse? City Hall? No way.
An overused phrase is, “Children are our future.” I think of it this way: We are THEIR future. Whatever these kids face in school, a grownup made it happen. Adults build schools, create curriculum, provide the materials, teach lesson plans and offer transportation.
Take politics out of school — good luck — and what we have left is an encouraging learning environment.
While I’m happy my school days are long past, each fall brings with it a renewal of special energy that exists when kids and educators mix.
The 2023-24 Citrus County school year has begun. Eyes up!
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Mike Wright has written about Citrus County government and politics for 36 years.