This last essay was my favorite of the four because it’s about why I wanted to move to Leadville.
LCSD Superintendent Essay D: Discuss your beliefs about small communities, their values, the challenges of small school districts and why you choose to be a part of this environment.
Who, in their right mind, would voluntarily choose to live in a tiny mountain town with long winters, limited shopping, and challenging altitude issues? Someone who understands both the charms and challenges of such a place, and who would want to protect the former while tackling the latter would make this decision . . . a decision I made with my family over five years ago.
My beliefs about small communities have evolved since my childhood days of exposure to the small town feel of living in a suburb near the historic city of Boston. Raised in a family of five girls, I learned the importance of frugality at a young age. Although my parents earned enough money to keep us well clothed, fed, and in a lovely home that became the favorite place for neighborhood socials, we all knew that as soon as we hit the legal age to babysit, we would be expected to earn our own money for “frills.” We knew the names of “Bargain Center” employees, and I liked that.
I liked it because it enhanced what I was beginning to understand about small communities, and provided a sense of comfort by showing me that—even beyond the borders of my “Leave it to Beaver” street community—there would be people who seemed to care about me. I came to believe that people in small communities, like the one in which I lived, watched out for one another, and would go out of their way to ensure that even the least social of neighbors would feel that they belonged and that they would have someone to turn to if ever in need. I believed that I could make a difference in my little world and that others would value my contributions. The inter-personal connections that I was able to develop as a babysitter, driveway shoveler, nursing home visitor, and waitress (my first “W-2” job!) were vital to my later successes in education and employment, and instilled in me a deeper understanding of small town values.
People who live in small communities should not be considered homogeneous in their values, but there seem to be consistencies which prevail in most. In the small communities where I have lived with my husband and children (and we have lived in many over the course of a military career), pride is highly valued—both individual pride and pride in community. Members of small communities are typically very loyal to family and friends, and they are proud of their ability to weather hardships together. They are empowered to speak their mind, and those who chose to involve themselves in the higher workings of their community do so because they want to make things better for everyone. Not everyone values public life, however, and many prefer to have their privacy respected; even so, personal privacy is a value most would consider important, and in a small community, honoring personal privacy can become a challenge.
In a place where “everyone knows everyone and everything about everyone,” the need to respect personal privacy is important. It is especially important within the school district of a small community where the needs of minors must be considered, and their rights protected. That, however, is only one challenge to consider with regard to school districts in small communities. In today’s economic environment, resources are scarce nation-wide, but particularly in areas with small populations and below average household income. Fewer funds challenge a small district’s ability to recruit and retain quality employees, to maintain aging facilities, and to provide valuable opportunities for students beyond “the basics,” of their curricular requirements. These challenges also, though, provide an opportunity for school leaders with creativity and vision to ensure that those in their care do not become victims of their environment, but rather strengthened, more resourceful individuals who will someday be proud of what they are able to accomplish.
With full knowledge of the challenges above, and with experience living in small communities throughout the United States, we moved to Leadville almost five years ago after four years of frequent visits from Colorado Springs. Why did we choose to be a part of this physical and social environment? We chose Leadville for several reasons. The charms of the area are undeniable. This is a town where “big city” people come to escape the heat, the monotony, and the pressure of their lives, to bask in the beauty of our mountains, to experience legendary history, to say that they’ve challenged themselves in some way, and to feel—if only for a weekend—a connection to a simpler time. It’s a place where our children (each graduates of Lake County High School) could live in a non-military environment and experience social, physical, and academic challenges. They have climbed these mountains, worked and volunteered in this town, and made lasting connections with members of the community.
Leadville is a place where I have experienced the challenges of teaching in an under-funded school district and have had the pleasure of developing meaningful relationships with my students, their families, my peers, and members of our small town. It is a place where my husband—a one-time burro racer and four-time Leadman—has a job which lets him sleep well at night (unless he’s leading a Search and Rescue mission), knowing that what he does will benefit the entire community. It is a place in which we intend to “retire,” whatever that means, and continue to work toward protecting the unique nature of our community while helping to ensure that it remains a viable place to visit and live.
Our home has become like the home of my youth, a place where family, friends, and oftentimes strangers come to visit (I am known to give tours of our historic home to anyone who looks at it while passing!). Although my mother may never forgive me for moving to a place so far from Boston and so physically challenging to visit, she has finally accepted that what I have been telling her all along—that I could not imagine myself being happier living anyplace else—is true. [end]