I guess everybody has heard the quote in the subject line of this email sometime in their lives. It usually indicates a strong, unwavering commitment to offset the plans of someone else who means harm, hurt, or humiliation.
I knew something wasn't right in Ms. Vanlue's voice Thursday morning. I was leaving Clinton Elementary when I got the call about 9:30 AM. "Dr. O'Shields, I need you to get to the district office as soon as possible."
I knew something just didn't seem right. I wasn't sure what it was but I knew I had to get there quickly. When I arrived, I went into Ms. Vanlue's office and she asked me to close the door. I did....(I usually do what Robbie says anyway.)
She showed me the letter Ms. Riley had brought to her just moments earlier. I sat dumbfounded, numb, and incredulous over the comments made by the anonymous author. Although I cannot go over specifics (since it is now a criminal matter), I can tell you how proud I am of you for your unwavering professional attitude and commitment to all that makes teaching the noblest of professions.
From the time we told the police to the time we told the district and school leaders to the time schools went on a modified lockdown (or heightened security watch), the courage, resolve, and grit of our employees was never in question and on admirable display.
I want to say thank you for the calm, reassuring manner you went about the past two days. All schools, all personnel, and all efforts were focused on protecting the students. I went to each school Thursday afternoon and it was uniformly evident we had risen to the challenge.
Terri and I talked about the courage, commitment, and compassion demonstrated by our district's employees when we were coming home from church today. She is a far more eloquent speaker and thinker than I (Simply put, she is much smarter.).
She said (and I asked her to write it down), "The face of District 56 in our community was not eclipsed by the ugly words of a coward sent through the mail."
No, the face of 56 was never so unwavering as it was during the past two days. It was a face of pride, anger, and determination. It was a face of bravery...a face of reassurance...of calm.
As superintendent, I want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart to each of you. Cafeteria workers, bus drivers, custodians, teachers, aides, and all folks in between--Thank you. Principals, assistant principals, administrative assistants, administrative designees: Thank you.
Unfortunately, we can not drop our guard. We cannot waiver or relent. We must remain vigilant and diligent. The anonymous fear monger has yet to be apprehended. His threats are painfully real and we cannot assume them to be anything less than that. We must maintain the "eyes in the backs of our heads" more than ever now.
I always knew I was lucky to be in District 56. I always knew there were special people in the classes, in the cafeterias, on the busses, and in the offices. I always knew this was my home and the schools, our houses. I always knew we were family. And family always has your back!
The line from the inspirational movie Rudy never rang truer than this past week, "No one comes into our house and pushes us around. Nobody!"
We made sure of that last week. We will make sure of that this week. And we will make sure of that as long as any of us has breath in our bodies. No one will hurt our children, our colleagues, our friends...."Over our dead bodies."
May it be so!