A Salute to Selflessness


That’s generally the type of text message that ruins my plans—as it does just as I come down for coffee this Friday morning, May 8th. It’s all about me, you see, and I’m irked that Mike, our son Nick and two other young responders will be out on a snowy, stormy mountain all day rescuing one lost, and I believe irresponsible, hiker. When I hear that he’s requested a helicopter, I get really pissed, and my thoughts take me to a dark place.

“Let Darwin take this one,” I suggest. It seems to me that more and more people throw caution to the ominous clouds in foolish personal quests knowing that all they have to do is call 911 when things stop being fun.

But my husband cannot do this despite all the past rescues that have ruined weekends and holiday dinners and left me feeling like poppin’ a cap in the asses of the asses he’s rescued. A little buckshot in the butt might keep them from ruining someone else’s day down the road, I think.

It also irks me that most people think Search and Rescue (SAR) folks get paid for their efforts. In our county, as in most, SAR is strictly a volunteer organization. Those who offer their time and risk their lives for others do it because they believe in it. They have a unique genetic code that screams of selflessness, and if only our scientists could harvest and implant that code in others, our world could be a much finer place.

I don’t consider myself to be a helicopter wife, but I make my first call to Police Dispatch at 8 p.m. and my second at 10:45 p.m. I’ve long ago put dinner in the fridge. It’s been storming and thunder-snowing and, hell, they left early this morning and know the mountain inside and out. I’ll be seriously pissed off if they’re not back soon. I’m worried.

“They’re almost to the North Trailhead and sounding fine,” the dispatcher tells me. She probably thinks I’m a cry-baby.

Sure, I’ve written and sent out far more queries to literary agents than I had planned for the day, and I’ve almost finished reading Steinbeck’s The Winter of Our Discontent (appropriate, I think), but hours of anxiety leave me feeling edgy.

It’s 12:07 a.m. and my phone pings. It’s Nick.

Heading back now. If you’re still awake, can you heat up all the food?

Yes, I respond, smiling at his phrasing while sticking the dinner I hoped they would have enjoyed much earlier back in the oven. But I’m still a little irked.

Finally, they’re home. They’re tired and wired and starving. They’re wind-burned and sunburned and smiling. They’ve saved the life of an individual unfortunate in many ways who surely would have perished had our volunteers decided not to respond to the IRIS page. They thank me for the hot dinner, devoured in an instant, and tell me how pleased they are with how the mission turned out.

Close to 1 a.m., I hand Nick a container of what remains of “all” the food and hug him. He’ll be heading to the Mine to begin his 12-hour shift in about four hours.

I’m no longer irked. Tired, yes, but bursting with love for my family and pride in them as people. My fatigue, my inconvenience, is less than insignificant. I’m the luckiest woman in the world. Lucky, too, are the countless individuals whose lives are saved by the selfless volunteers who risk everything to ensure those individuals have another opportunity—hopefully—to make better decisions in their future.


“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]