This morning’s Syracuse Post-Standard brought yet another article about the Jordan Elbridge School District. The articles have been coming for the past several months, going back to last fall; each is more eyebrow-raising than the rest, and unfortunately none of them are about the good things that happen there.
JE (my alma mater) has been under a microscope for a host of reasons, including the buyout of the former superintendent’s contract; firings, suspensions, and sudden retirements; a $600 per day interim administrator; a possible loss of funds set aside to pay towards an district-wide improvement project; upheavals in the coaching staff on the eve of the spring sports season; and a host of lawsuits filed by former administrators and by district residents. According to comments made at school board meetings, in some classes there were not enough supplies or books to go around, and both students and teachers were struggling with the pressures of the goings-on.
All of these problems are allegedly the result of a school board with an agenda; three board members, including the embattled president, are not seeking reelection and, remarkably, four candidates have come forward to run to replace them. JE is facing a tough budget season, as are many schools in the area, and the budget proposes a significant tax increase. At least a portion of that increase is because the district has incurred significant legal fees since the churn began last year. Taken in that context, today’s announcement about the Director of Operations contract was a tough blow.
But something positive – very positive – happened at Jordan Elbridge today. This afternoon, over 70 students received awards from the school’s Dollars for Scholars program, now in its 26th year. Since 1985, close to $670,000 has been given to more than 1130 students. The kids honored today included several who will attend local community colleges, some in degree programs and others who will springboard to continued education, but also some who will attend SU, RPI, RIT, Clarkson, Ithaca College, Niagara, St John Fisher and Cornell, among others.
There were kids pursuing careers in nursing, physical therapy, psychology, anesthesiology, and a few who declared more generally ‘pre-med’. Others are shooting for engineering, bio-technologies, fine arts, special effects makeup, culinary arts, political science, international relations, and even one girl who seems destined to become involved in auto racing one way or another.
The awards handed out today included several from local businesses and organizations, a number from local families in honor or memory of their loved ones (including the one I presented), and from teachers, administrators, and the alumni organization. There were 'named' awards that have been given for many years, and three awards which were new this year and will hopefully be given for many years to come.
What the kids and scholarships had in common was that Jordan Elbridge is a place where good things can and do happen. A place where achievement is encouraged, where achievement happens, and where achievement is celebrated. Where students appreciate each other, their teachers, guidance counselors and the administrators who have advocated on their behalf.
It was fun to be there today, and to help recognize kids who have done very well, in spite of the actions of many adults around them.