It is Sunday morning and I am sitting in my office, thinking about my article for The Platteville Journal due by noon Monday.
There are so many thoughts running through my head about education, the upcoming holidays, the things I will need to get done this week before the break. Many thoughts … yet I keep going back to thoughts of the horrific tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
I am sure there is not a staff member, student, parent, or community member who doesn’t wonder for a second if that could happen here. The obvious answer to that question is almost unspeakable. We will look at our practices and facilities to make sure we are doing everything possible to avoid such a situation, but as more and more information comes out, it doesn’t appear as if the school personnel could have done anything different. They had secure doors, as we do. They have had drills, as we have had.
Unfortunately, tragedy can come to good people, good families, and good communities, despite our best efforts. Tragedy brings us closer to those that we love and often causes us to reach out to people we may not know in an attempt to share the care and support that only humans can give.
Just a little over two years ago, I was offered the position as superintendent of Platteville schools and had planned to sign my contract at the next board meeting. The day before signing, we found out that we had lost our beautiful, amazing 19-year-old son. My heart was broken and I could hardly even see through the next day, yet alone think about what I would do that next year.
I remember people in the Platteville community reaching out to us with kindness and support, even though they did not know us. A month later, I made the decision to come to Platteville.
I have been amazed at how people who were once strangers to me have become almost “family” and have been instrumental in supporting me through the last two years. They made me feel a part of this community. I share all of this because as I think about the tragedy in Connecticut, I know that the community will surround those families with love and care. I know that they will survive.
As I think about education, I know that our staff members will pause to appreciate the close relationships they have with the students and their colleagues. Even though they are faced with media storylines that are frightening and unfathomable, they will return to their schools and students with a stalwart commitment to “make a difference.”
As I think about the holidays, I remember that very little matters except for those people that we choose to invite into our lives and our hearts. As I watch people get so angry over day-to-day frustrations, I know how incredibly fortunate they are to have lived a life where those types of things matter. My wish for all is that you have a holiday season where you sit amongst those you love and recognize that there is nothing more important than that.
The Community Corner is a weekly column of opinion written by guest columnists UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields; Platteville School District Superintendent Connie Valenza; Chamber Director Kathy Kopp; Main Street Program Director Jack Luedtke; Common Council President Mike Dalecki, Platteville Recreation Coordinator Jordan Burress, State Rep. Travis Tranel, Platteville City Manager Larry Bierke and Police Chief Doug McKinley.