Monday, November 16, 2015

Valgar Institute: "We All Have A Story To Tell"

 "Storytelling is the most powerful way 
to put ideas into the world today." - Robert McKee

Growing up, one of the events I always looked forward to was when my grandmother sat with me and tell me stories about  our family's adventures, past and present, as well as tales she remembered that could have taken place, or not.   And while my grandmother felt that she did not have much to tell, or the affinity to tell a story, I thoroughly enjoyed being transported
to locations where the events had taken place. As I got older, I began to find the same joy in the books I read.  I always wondered how the stories my grandmother told  would have read had she put pen to paper.  They would have been great stories to read, and reread.   

My father, a polymath, became a published author of literature and poetry.  And while I didn't grow up with him, I had the opportunity to go back and read the few works in my possession. This inspired me to write my own story. So, I decided to first write a teacher handbook and, later, Libby (my wife) and I wrote a snowboarding book.  Both were great experiences.  In time, my experiences led to my interest in the idea that we all of a story to tell.  If given the opportunity, how many people would sit down and write their story for the world to read. 

So, Libby and I decided to bring the Valgar Institute: A Publishing Company, back online (I made an initial attempt several years ago).  Jean Luc Godard said that "sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form."  We are hoping to create a community for writers and readers who believe that everyone has a story to tell.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Moving Forward

This past July, my family and I moved to Albuquerque, so that I could serve as the Superintendent of the Albuquerque Public Schools.  I was truly humbled that I had been selected to lead the work in this city.  We purchased a home in the city, Libby (wife) enrolled Anthony (son) who was starting kindergarten, in the Albuquerque Public Schools.  By all accounts we were settling in, believing that Albuquerque and the school district, had chosen us. 

But that was not the case; my tenure was short-lived.  A series of events led to my separation from the school district after only 3 months. I was stunned.  I could not imagine finding myself in this position - I truly believed we were here for the long term.  And while the media had a field day with the story, there is much that might never be known or understood. Hopefully time will provide a broader perspective and things will become clearer.

I will be honest when I say that leaving APS was very difficult.  The opportunity of making a positive difference in the lives of those I was hired to serve was real, and my commitment to affecting change within the community was full.  Worse yet, my leaving happened at the same time that Libby's dad passed away.  Libby and her dad were extremely close, and she had been dealing with it for some time.  Anthony was starting school and I certainly didn't want for the little guy to have to deal with my situation.  The last thing they needed was for me to burden them with my situation. At the same time, I know that Libby and Anthony felt the stress, and were very supportive: it was a difficult and lonely period.

Coming to terms with the reality that I was no longer the APS Superintendent took some time.  I had never experienced this with any job I ever had. Dealing with previously unknown emotions was a challenge.  Fortunately, there were folks who stepped up.  They checked in on us, letting us know that they were there for whatever I or my family needed; we will be eternally grateful for their support.

After a short time spent licking my wounds, I began to own my response to the situation and the actions I needed to take moving forward.  In addition to acknowledging the support we received from friends and family, I started reading some books and articles that were either recommended to me, or that I discovered.  I won't run through my bibliography, but there is a book that I would like to mention.   Javier Camara and Sebastian Pfaffen wrote, Understanding Pope Francis: Key Moments in the Formation of Jorge Bergoglio as a Jesuit.  It was written in Spanish, and translated.  The book was great in giving me insight into the life of a unique individual who became a word leader.  And while the entire book is insightful, the section describing his return to Cordoba, which the authors call a "time of darkness and purification", has really guided my thinking about my separation from APS.  I recommend the book to anyone feeling lost, who is trying to make sense of things, and looking for direction.   A friend also recommended that I journal, something I did for many years, as a way of grappling my feelings and thoughts through reflection.  So using Evernote, I have spent a good amount of time retelling my story, how I feel about it, and how I'm using that story to move forward. The reading and the writing have both been very helpful. 

I have also started applying for positions.  While in the immediate returning to a superintendency might be less of an option because the exposure the events that transpired have had,  I am applying to a couple that are coming online.  I'm also applying for other positions, and making connections with individuals who can lend their wisdom.  This has refocused my energies in a way that will allow me to get my career back on track.

Hopefully, what happened in Albuquerque was about a learning I needed to have or and experience I needed to go through. As my wife and others have said, "God has a plan for us, and going through this was part of that plan - and sometimes God uses pain for good."   I have certainly gained a new perspective and new appreciation for the role of the superintendent.

During our time in Albuquerque we have met some amazing people who are now great family friends.  My son has new friends he loves to play with, Libby volunteers in our son's classroom, and church is part of our family's experience. We are customers of the school district and residents of the city of Albuquerque.

During my short tenure at the helm, I came to see that APS has the potential to transform the lives of students. I want to see APS succeed, and wish it nothing but the best, and look forward to seeing its impact on students, parents, staff, and community.