It is during our most difficult times that we find out what we’re made of. This has been a challenging school year in many respects, and for the most part, we have responded with resiliency and compassion.
As school began in September, a gang-affiliated shooting occurred in the community. Although it didn’t occur on school property, local students were involved, which triggered additional tension on school campuses.
In October, wildfires ravaged large parts of Redwood Valley and Potter Valley, displacing students and staff and leaving some with only the clothes on their back and a pile of ash where their homes used to be. Tragically, two Ukiah Unified students lost their lives.
In February, local students heard about the Parkland, Florida school shooting and weeks later, unverified threats of a possible school shooting in Ukiah (that turned out to be no more than rumors) sent ripples of anxiety through local schools.
In March, a beloved Oak Manor Elementary School teacher, Patty Moore, passed away unexpectedly, leaving her colleagues and students stunned and saddened.
When we increased school counselors during the last few years, I had no idea how busy they’d be or the depth of the issues they’d be facing with our students. I am grateful for their skill and dedication. I am also glad we hired an additional school resource officer at the beginning of the year, allowing us to help defuse tensions, address violence and drug use, and reduce truancy.
We still have a lot of work to do in many areas, but our responses to several of this year’s difficult events have shown that we put community above self-interest and that we have the capacity to demonstrate incredible kindness.
When students undergo traumatic events like losing a friend or teacher, being displaced from their home, or being scared that a school shooting is imminent, it is understandable that they may have trouble focusing on their schoolwork. Our primary goal is to keep students safe and to help them feel secure at school. The world is changing and this is becoming more difficult, but our goal remains.
When students feel safe, they can concentrate on the excellent educational offerings from our wonderful teachers. Many times, it is the relationship with a single, special teacher or other staff member who can make all the difference in helping a student feel safe and secure. Thanks to the many Ukiah Unified employees who fill this role for our students.
Thanks also to the community organizations that help us celebrate our students’ success. It’s always helpful to focus on the positive, but it can be especially important to lift spirits when people are struggling. Events like the Student of the Month program allow us to take time away from our daily routines to learn about the extraordinary accomplishments of our students. The organizations that support this event include the Ukiah Daily Journal, Community First Credit Union, Savings Bank of Mendocino County, Carol Myer/State Farm Insurance, Ukiah Players Theatre, Applebee’s of Ukiah, Star’s Restaurant, Paradise Skate, McG’s Family Fun Center, and Assemblyman Jim Wood.
I am proud to be part of a community that comes together in the face of hardship. This year’s challenges definitely brought us together as a community. Let’s continue to support each other and hopefully, next year will be a better year.