“Are you telling me I’m a bobble-head?” asks my mom.

When my father died recently, just shy of what would be their 65th wedding anniversary, I had the good fortune to spend two weeks alone with my mother to help her transition into widowhood, a term we both decide—instantly—we do not like. Amidst the piles of paperwork requiring attention are her medical records.

“I don’t think it’s anything to worry about,” I tell my 85-year-old mother. “You’ve been doing it for years.”

“You’re kidding me!” she says with a horrified expression, looking at me as if my head, too, were not completely secured on my neck.

It strikes me as peculiar that my father, my four sisters, and mom’s lifelong friends would not have mentioned the “familial tremor” that has been obvious to us all for so many years. It’s a slight jiggle, and it’s more pronounced when mom is looking down, but it’s certainly apparent. I am just as guilty as them all, however, in assuming that someone had surely mentioned it before.

“You might want to talk with your doctor about it when you see him next, but really, if it’s not bothering you, then I don’t think it’s a big deal,” I tell her, hoping to make her feel better.

But now I can tell that she is going to be very aware of this new revelation, and I feel a little bad that I am the one to spill the beans. Still, I believe it’s something she deserves to know.

“I’ve always felt so sorry for those little old ladies in church who do that,” she tells me, and then starts to laugh. Perhaps she is considering that at age 85, all 102 pounds of her, she is now one of those little old ladies.

I remind her of a statistic she once quoted, erroneously, years ago. We had been discussing percentages during a family trip, and mom told us all, with great authority, that the human head weighed 80 pounds. After a short silence in the car, someone was brave enough to say, “Um . . . I really don’t think that’s true,” and when we all stopped laughing—miles down the road—we realized that she had meant to teach us that when drawing the human figure, the head is 1/8th the height of the entire body. Mom is an artist, not a scientist.

She chuckles with the memory.

“But that would certainly explain why I can’t hold my head still on my skinny neck,” she says, and when the two of us stop laughing, I know that Mom will be just fine, 80-pound bobble-head and all.


“Making friends and influencing people…”

This third of four essays has a “relationship” focus. I enjoyed writing it.

LCSD Superintendent Essay C: What actions would you take to form effective relationships with staff, community and other governmental agencies to provide for clear communications, build trust and create a unity of vision?

For years I have taught my students how to employ figurative language elements as a way to ensure that readers get a clear “picture” of what they are trying to express. After all, unclear communication is like an outdated road map; it can leave you lost and confused. The ability to communicate effectively is critical for building effective relationships, and effective relationships inherently require trust between parties. As an English teacher at Lake County High School and as an active member of the Leadville community, I have had amazing opportunities to form relationships with people in many circles. Those who have come to know me also know that I am forward, direct, and honest when I speak, that I welcome intelligent debate, and that I understand and believe in the concept of transparency. These skills have already provided me opportunities to collaborate with members of LCSD staff, community, and several other governmental agencies.

In August of 2007 I participated in my first “Welcome back to a new school year!” meeting of district staff and faculty. I was “the new girl,” and was immediately encouraged to lead a group activity. That was the start of my involvement with the school and district instructional leadership teams; for two and a half years I collaborated with my peers and those above me on topics ranging from curriculum design to school spirit. In an effort to ensure that information gleaned from those meeting received the widest distribution, I would send weekly emails to all staff members with topic recaps, suggestions, and reminders. My peers knew that they could share concerns and questions with me, and that I would represent them as best as I could. In order to be truly effective as a leader, those you lead must believe that you value them as individuals. As a district leader, I would schedule routine opportunities to listen actively to suggestions and concerns from my staff and faculty, I would arrange to have meetings with groups of students from all schools to ensure that I stay connected to the needs and concerns of those for whom I work, I would ensure that no significant decisions would be made before soliciting input from those my decisions would impact, I would be available to spend time beyond work hours with individuals or groups with concerns, and I would frequently attend—and help to promote—our after school events. My goal would be to ensure that all those I serve feel empowered to help realize a vision for the greater good of the organization.

Shortly after that first “Welcome back” meeting, I realized that although I already knew many members of the community from almost four years of “living” at the Leadville Hostel during escapes from Colorado Springs and supporting/participating in local racing events,  I was not necessarily connected to the families of those I would be teaching. In October of 2007 a peer suggested that I would be a great mentor for Full Circle, so without further prompting, I completed the requirements for mentorship and welcomed a young brother and sister into our family. My relationship with these children and their family grew over four years, during which time I got to know other members of the Full Circle community. Although this family has recently moved, I am able to stay “connected” to them with the help of modern technology. As a district leader, I would highly encourage those who are able to participate in this and other community outreach programs. Leadville hosts many organizations which support the mission to improve opportunities and conditions in our district. In a school district with limited funds, school leaders must be creative in finding ways to expose our students to opportunities for contact with the world outside their classrooms. Local businesses such as the Tabor Opera House, the Gallery Leonardo, Fire on the Mountain, the Book Mine, Alpine Ski and Sport, and Cookies with Altitude have opened their doors to my students for field trips and writing opportunities, and the Herald Democrat has welcomed articles and pictures of these experiences. As a member of the Leadville Lions Club, I have participated in Speech Contests for our students, Safeway card sales over the holidays (which contribute to student scholarships), Boom Days parades and beer tent sales (during which I have met countless members of our community and from visiting communities) and other local functions. These events have enriched my students’ and my own relationship with members of our larger community. Leaders must be available to serve and support others in their community in order to build trust and unity of vision.  Our community members need to get to know our students if we hope to have them share our vision of success, and I would work to ensure that opportunities for visits, internships, and community service are plentiful.

It goes without saying that as a school district leader, I must have open and effective channels of communication with many governmental agencies. Being married to the Lake County Emergency Manager has provided me with many opportunities to meet members of our police, sheriff, and fire departments, and to speak with our Mayor, County Commissioners, and City Council members. As a mother of two sons who graduated from LCHS with credits from Colorado Mountain College, I have developed a rapport with leaders of that organization, and understand the value of all they have to offer our students and community. Although there are clearly many leaders in the service of private, county, state, federal, and faith based organizations I have not yet met, I would make every effort to attend meetings and events—and to host events—to ensure that members of those communities, many with children attending our school district, would get to know me, and would know that their input would be valued as a significant contribution to helping our school district, and all its members, succeed.

I was raised with the lesson that “honesty is the best policy,” and my years of service at the military academy and in the army instilled in me an “honor code” that has served me well my entire life. As the leader of Lake County School District, I would take the relationships I have already developed to the next level in an effort to realize a shared vision of growth and success for all members of our district, and I would make it an ongoing effort to reach out to those individuals and agencies with whom I have not yet established a relationship. By creating avenues through which members of all organizations can be involved with our schools, our entire community will be following the same 21st Century road map into a more successful future.  [end]