Giving thanks

by Timothy G. Kremer

On Board Online • November 20, 2017

By Timothy G. Kremer
NYSSBA Executive Director

".And the days that I keep my gratitude higher than my expectations.Well, I have really good days."

Ray Wylie Hubbard
from Mother Blues

I have usually taken the holiday of Thanksgiving for granted. It has been a fairly predictable affair - a four-day weekend, family gathering, tons of food and refreshments, football, poker, lots of laughs, big clean-up. The venue changes once in a while, but not much else.

Sure, there has been the occasional surprise: my father-in-law's trip to the emergency room after slicing his hand while trimming the turkey, being locked out of the house with the alarm going off and explaining my dilemma to the sheriff, the late-night meltdown over a silly board game dispute. Oh, the memories.

But this year I am really looking forward to Thanksgiving. It is a reminder to count one's blessings, and I, for one, have many.

First, it's a privilege to work in the field of public education, which attracts some of the best colleagues one could possibly have. The NYSSBA Board of Directors and the NYSSBA staff are my dream team; they have an infectious passion for the mission of improving our state's public schools and ensuring school leaders get the support they need.

I have spent my entire career working on behalf of school board members in Ohio and New York, and that is a special privilege. In addition to caring deeply about children and challenging me in all the right ways, school board members are some of the most thoughtful, positive and friendly people I have ever met.

I also have a special place in my heart for the many executive directors from state school boards associations throughout the country. They are my band of brothers and sisters who remind me that I have the best job imaginable.

I am also thankful to have excellent friends and allies within the broader educational community - district and building administrators, teachers, parents and the association professionals who represent them.

My gratitude extends to everyone who has dedicated his or her profession to advancing the interests of children, and especially the professional educators and support staff in New York State public schools. I doubt I could do half of what you do, and I'm sure I could only do it half as well. The students who walk through your doors have daily needs that one can only imagine. These students challenge you every single day, and your job is to do the best you can with every one of them. There ought to be a special toast at every Thanksgiving table for the people who have dedicated their careers to being there for kids.

New York is often criticized by fiscal conservatives for the amount of money spent on public education, but the truth is that our high state average is the result of people in communities statewide deciding to strongly support their public schools with local tax dollars. Thankfully, all school budgets passed in 2017: 671 budgets on the first vote and the remaining five on the second vote.

While we all have mixed feelings about how government at the state and federal level has supported schools. However, I am feeling particularly thankful for the discussions that are taking place about reducing our dependence on standardized tests in lieu of a wider range of options for demonstrating program quality, teacher performance and student achievement. If New York's Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan is approved, many people from throughout New York to Washington, D.C. will deserve a pat on the back.

A special shout-out goes to senators Schumer and Gillibrand, most of our Congressional delegation and Governor Cuomo for their vigilance and vocal opposition to the proposed federal tax reforms that will have a devastating impact on New Yorkers. The majorities in both houses have proposed plans that will shift costs to local taxpayers, raise taxes, eliminate jobs and cut school services. The aforementioned community support that schools now enjoy will be tested like never before.

While we all have many things for which to be thankful, we are also compelled to acknowledge our sorrow and anger for all the pain felt in the world today. Every war, mass shooting and act of terrorism showcases the worst of humanity.

But, it also showcases the best. Active military and veterans, first responders and emergency workers, good Samaritans, parents, grandparents and caregivers are today's often-unheralded heroes who roll up their sleeves to do what must be done every single day to benefit you and me.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

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