Reflection: OCPS Board Meeting

JimCoffinBy James Coffin (January 15, 2013)

Please stand and join me in a reflection on the impact of the tragedy that occurred a month ago:

The Board of Orange County Public Schools exists because our community cares deeply about our most precious resource: our children.

Our hearts are heavy tonight because fresh in our minds are memories of what transpired a month ago in another community that’s just as committed to its children as we are to ours. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School reminds us that the best of intentions and the most carefully laid plans can prove inadequate when pitted against a diabolical determination to inflict destruction and death.

In an ideal world, school boards would focus solely on education. You would always be wrestling with such things as how to ensure that delicate balance between . . .

  • Emphasizing the three R’s, without neglecting the less-quantifiable aspects of learning.
  • Catering to a variety of learning styles, while always expecting full mastery of essential skills and information.
  • Presenting facts, while equipping each student to test the validity of the assertions made.
  • Instilling crucial universal values, without promoting parochial or partisan dogmas.

But Sandy Hook, Columbine and other such tragedies are robbing you as school board members of that luxury. You now must also wrestle with the delicate balance of providing appropriate physical protection, while not transforming our schools into prison lookalikes.

The challenges you as a school board face have never been so daunting. Yet the privilege of serving has never been so great. Precisely because the stakes have never been so high.

Thank you for joining me in this reflection.

James Coffin is executive director of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.