It’s been a full year since my last post. Having taken some time off with family for vacation, it is time to get back to work. As always, time off helps clear the mind. Summer is a great time to reflect on the past year before the list of preparations for the next school year begin to pile up. It was during this reflection time that I realized I had not posted since last summer. My first response was: It was a Harvey year!
In late August, Hurricane Harvey brought us about 50 inches of rain causing roughly 1/3 of the homes in Friendswood alone to flood. Many of our students and staff were directly affected by having their homes flooded causing them to find alternative living accommodations. Families moved, families welcomed others into their homes, loaned cars, helped tear carpet and sheetrock, provide food, money or whatever the need was. Friendswood High School turned into an emergency center for many, including a retirement home that had elderly residents some with critical medical needs. It was an event that the effects of which are still ongoing. Some families reported that they were still working with contractors at the end of the June.
The impacts of this event are too many to detail, but there was an immediate change in focus from the traditional meetings and plans that Cline had. We were now focused on how we could help others, provide a “as normal as possible” environment for students and community. Our staff met prior to students coming back to school in preparation for the returning students, we held an impromptu meetings with the PTO to adjust our prior plans for our yearly fundraising event – Clinefest and teachers readjusted their plans to allow for time to “meet the needs” of our students. Our PTO was simply outstanding in being so sensitive to those who were effected by the hurricane by halting all ongoing fundraising and helping to raise funds for the “Harvey families”. Mrs. Bowman, Cline’s counselor, shifted some of her many duties to make room for being the liaison between donors and the families in need, making sure they properly received the items they needed. Our staff remained positive and strong for the students often requiring great flexibility. Throughout the year, all decisions were through the lens of “Harvey effects”.
As news made the headlines around the country, I began to receive emails from schools wishing to help in anyway they could. It was amazing to see how other schools from around the country, who sent a banner of encouragement, handwritten letters by students, and financial assistance (i.e. Home Depot cards). A special thanks to the following schools for their moral and financial support for our families and community:
Key Club – Jefferson Academy K-12, Broomfield, Colorado
Consolidated School in New Fairfield, CT
Ecoff Elementary in Richmond, VA
Reflecting on the past year, I know that the effects of Hurricane Harvey will diminish over time as many are back in their homes, but they will never be forgotten. Harvey changed the community without a doubt, but I feel that this event made us all better. It brought the community together through service and selfless giving to others, it helped us to focus on the most important things in life, it reminded us of the good in humanity when we choose to do what is right, despite what we see in the media.
As a principal, I will always remember the feeling of receiving help from schools around the country and how that made our families and students feel. The next time there is a disaster in the news, no matter where it is, Cline Elementary will seek to respond in kind and to support others in need. As a bucket filling school, we have a tradition that we sing one of the bucket filling songs to those that have filled our buckets. After receiving the packages from other schools, we recorded our Kindergarteners and first graders singing I’m all filled up by Red Grammer. Although this year’s events I would wish on no one, it has made us stronger in many ways and we have learned first hand that we do have the power to change the world and to make the world a better place.