Monday, December 28, 2009

In Need of Support

Last night I had a chance to speak with a representative of the DEA. During the conversation this representative said that he had been told by those in the district office that “They had not received a single letter of support for Mr. Smith from the faculty at Layton High.” From this, they (the district administration) construed that they would have no challenge in reassigning Mr. Smith. I was thunderstruck.

As explanation, but as no excuse, I offer the fact that the faculty at Layton High did not know Mr. Smith needed letters of support. We were told that the “leave of absence” was a routine district procedure related to a routine audit, and that Mr. Smith would be back by Christmas. All of us know that Mr. Smith is, to quote Board President Marian Storey from the Standard Examiner Article of last week, “an honest and decent man.” We also know more, we know he is a great man, the best of bosses, and the best of principals.

I know that 45 teachers signed a petition in support of Mr. Smith that was put together by Ms. Becky Erickson, a teacher at Layton High. This is a large majority of the faculty at Layton. This group signed in spite of the fact that knowledge of the petitions existence was passed strictly word-of-mouth through the school on the Friday morning it was presented to the superintendent. I am so grateful to Ms. Erickson for giving us this opportunity to express our support. I believe more would have signed had they known they could.

I am also aware that another petition, not supportive of Mr. Smith, was sent to the district office. I cannot imagine any of my colleagues who would sign such a thing. However some did. This presents a challenge. In this “post-modern” world, where Political Correctness demands that all things be treated as equal, and in the face of an often amoral attitude by those in power, opinion can be held, by some, as valid as fact. This is a culture in which the grumblings of malcontents can be given the same weight as the word of the finest teachers and the demonstrable and quantitative evidence of Mr. Smith excellence of performance.

We must remedy this.

All who value justice, which I have always defined as decision based on truth, must now write “in support of Mr. Smith.” By Monday the 4th of January, the P. O. Box at the district office must be overflowing with letters of support.

The address is:

Dr. W. Bryan Bowles, Superintendent
Davis County School District
P. O. Box 588
Farmington, UT 84025-0588

Below, I am posting my letter to “the district.” It is an adaptation of a letter I sent to Mr. Smith on October 13th. I felt he needed my support. It had never occurred to me that I would have to prove that support to the district, until now.

Dear Dr. Bowles,

When I first heard that Mr. Smith had been placed on administrative leave I was very concerned, but assurances from the administration that the practice of audit and leave were routine restored my hope and my spirits. I could only imagine the difficulty Mr. Smith had to face, but I drew strength from his example of courage and the quality of his character.

Dr. Bowles, I offer my support for Mr. Smith’s return as principal to Layton High. I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for my family, my friends, my community, and for me. For twenty-five years I have enjoyed a life he made possible. I have always felt safe and supported in all my efforts, inspired to do my best by the faith he has put in me, and by the sure knowledge that he always “had my back.”

The night I heard of Mr. Smith’s administrative leave I was feeling very downcast, I went over to the Wal-Mart. I was stopped by a parent, who proceeded to tell me how I had influenced the lives of her four children. One has become a history teacher because of me. She told me, her whole family has been made better by my efforts. At the pharmacy desk, a former student smiled and waved as he answered my wife’s questions, and minutes later the young man at the self-check-out machine told me I had been his favorite teacher back in high school. This was one hour of one day of twenty five years of days in the life Mr. Smith has given me.

Day by day, my family’s dreams come true: my eldest son is a rocket scientist, my second a PhD candidate at BYU, my eldest daughter is the Associate Director of Special Collections at the University of Utah Library. Their dreams made possible, made real, by the opportunities Mr. Smith gave me.

That Sunday night, I spoke with a former student on the phone from his new $450,000 home near Washington D.C. That week he attended a prestigious awards ceremony in New York City, representing the Coast Guard and the State Department, where he serves as an officer and a lawyer. He thanked me for setting his feet on the path to such opportunity and adventure. He is only one of many wonderful people I would never have known but for Mr. Smith’s faith in me, and the support he has given me. I thank him for the gifts of gratitude I receive from my students every day.

When I contemplate the thousands of similar opportunities Mr. Smith has given to thousands of others, who, like me, have been blessed by his service and leadership, I am overwhelmed. He is the archetype of a great man. He is my hero.

When I was a young teacher, it hurt me that all my students did not like me. However, I came to consider those who did, and decided that what mattered most were those who did like me. As long as those whose opinions I valued, valued me, the scorn of all others was of only passing interest and no lasting impact. No matter who may challenge Mr. Smith, please know that I will always respect, admire, and appreciate him. I assure you, Dr. Bowles, that there is a LEGION of those who know the undeniable truth of Mr. Smith’s goodness.

With respect,

Delose Conner,
Teacher at Layton High

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