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Your Public Schools: Sharing a 'wish list' for the school district

My family is very important to me, and, like many of you, my wife, Betsy, and I are busily preparing for the upcoming holiday season when all of our children will join us for Christmas Eve and extended stays of varying lengths.

This will be the first holiday in many, many years when we will all be together, as well as our first Christmas celebrated in River Falls. We can't wait!

Since none of our four children live in the area, there will be multiple trips to the airport. First to arrive will be son, Tim, coming from Boston where he is completing his advanced degree in choral conducting. Next to arrive are son, Mike, and his wife, Amy, both of whom reside in Boston but for this year have mostly been living in East Africa. Mike is in the last year of his residency for a physician's license and is working out of a hospital in Gulu, Uganda.

The next airport run will be to pick up our daughter, Jeanne, her husband, Al, and our new granddaughter, Ava, all who live in Chicago. Ava will be almost four months old when they come, and both baby and grandparents will be full of smiles and coos and baby talk. This grandparenting role is everything it's cracked up to be.

Finally, youngest son, Dan, drives here from Madison, where he works for Epic, a medical software company. He'll be sure to bring along his German shepherd (and our granddog), Kobi, to keep things interesting.

Our holiday season will be filled with long walks and talks, good meals and tasty sweets, cozy fires, church services, music, laughter and gift exchanges. I'm counting on this holiday to have no frozen water pipes, no flooded classrooms as we had at River Falls High School last year over winter break. This holiday is reserved for family time.

I must admit that I am not much of a shopper, so the gift-giving part of the holidays always finds me scratching my head to come up with just the right present. I used to worry more about that until someone last year shared this Ben Daniels' message with me:

"The priceless gifts are not the ones wrapped up and exchanged on special occasions, but the gifts we give when we give of ourselves. It is the love that we share. It is the comfort we lend in times of need. It is the moments we spend together helping each other follow our dreams.

"The most priceless gifts in life are the understanding and caring that come from the heart. And each and every one of us has these gifts to offer through the gift of ourselves."

When our children were young, they used to write up their Christmas wish lists for Santa Claus and stick them on the window for the elves to take. In remembering back to those days, I thought about my "wish list" for the River Falls School District for 2010.

Here are some of the items found on my list for the coming year:

Successful completion and approval of our district's strategic plan in February, as to move our educational opportunities in River Falls from "good to great."

  • Minimal pains in our budget reduction process for the 2010-11 school year (about which I will fill readers in on after the New Year).
  • A rapid turnaround to our nation's struggling economy, unemployment rate, home foreclosures, and local businesses' survival, so that everyone, especially our stressed families with children, can thrive again.
  • Completion of employee contract negotiations that are fair but also within the district's economic realities.
  • Steps forward in gaining access to our school district's forest for purposes of environmental education.
  • Progress in addressing building maintenance issues and upgrades to our district's school facilities.
  • A school system where the dignity and worth of every individual -- students, staff, parents and visitors -- are preserved and promoted every day.

    Lastly, my wish for you is a happy, family-centered holiday season, and a New Year filled with nothing but good news.

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