Superintendent's Notebook: Be thankful

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November has arrived and as we approach Thanksgiving, it is a time for reflection, appreciation, and thankfulness for the enormous blessings around us.

Abraham Lincoln formalized Thanksgiving as a national celebration during the Civil War, seeking to bind together a divided and wounded country. This is worth remembering as the recent tragedies in Pittsburgh, where 11 people were gunned down while worshipping in their synagogue, and the two lives lost at a Kentucky Kroger supermarket make me ponder our progress, or lack thereof, since Lincoln formalized the holiday in 1863.

It is difficult to not be consumed by all that is wrong with our country when such senseless acts of violence are committed. I encourage us to use this time of year to be grateful for what is right. Now is the time to reject the hate, anxiety, and alienation that has been displayed recently, and replace it with acts of inclusiveness, gratitude, and love.

Showing civility, building teamwork, and learning how to support one another are lessons we need throughout our country, our community, and for our students. There is great potential and good in each of us.

In Regional School Unit 5, all of our fall sports teams performed well this year, with all teams reaching the playoffs. Our boys soccer team competed in the state finals. More importantly than winning games was the sportsmanship the teams displayed throughout the season. Lessons of civility and teamwork are much more vital than winning scores and are essential for our students in becoming future leaders of our society.

I’m grateful that in our RSU 5 community we can disagree in a civil and respectful manner on issues from proficiency to budgets to cost-sharing formulas. This ability to debate respectfully is vital to our existence as a society. It is through debate that we learn to question, to ponder, to solidify our thinking, and in the end, expand our perspectives on issues because no community or country can have a healthy government without vigorous debate. This is foundational to democratic life. It is a lesson we want to model for our students who are ever observant of our practices.

Our recent fall music concert at Freeport High School, under the direction of Shawn McKeown, showcased the enormous talents of our students, for which I am enormously proud and grateful. The concert band performed “On a Hymnsong of Philip Bliss,” which is based upon a tragedy that happened to Horatio Spafford when four of his daughters drowned at sea in 1873. Spafford did not dwell on the theme of life’s sorrows and trials, but focused on redemption and was able to say convincingly, “It is well with my soul.”

So, this Thanksgiving, let’s follow the example set by Horatio Spafford and focus on the good, the path forward, and the force that binds us together in RSU 5, in our communities, and in our country. While our country does have its imperfections, let’s continue to strive for continuous improvement each and every day. In the words of Spafford, “It is well with my soul.”

Becky Foley is superintendent of schools in Regional School Unit 5 (Freeport-Durham-Pownal). She can be reached at foleyb@rsu5.org.

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