Column: When in doubt, talk it out in difficult times

By the time this article is printed and delivered, Independent School District 15 students and their families will have completed the first third of their school year. Our community has had the opportunity to be involved and engaged with students progressing through the 2013-14 educational journey.

Ed Saxton
Ed Saxton

Opportunities to observe academic growth, athletic and arts achievement, and personal growth have been abundant.

Community dialogue is important. My fifth-grade teacher had a sign in his room that read, “When in doubt, talk it out.” This phrase is anchored in my memory and has surfaced periodically over the years. The action sounds simple; the task, however, is considerably more challenging. Many discussions are engaging and people share the topics with enthusiasm. Positive student progress is exciting; it is easy to talk about and fun to recall.

However, not all topics fit the prior description.

Topics tend to vary in community interest and community engagement. For example, last week, I attended a meeting of the St. Francis Community Drug Awareness group in the Performing Arts Center at our high school. There was a concentrated interest and a possibility of engagement. The several hundred people who attended heard a clear message. The statement on the front of the program read, “Our group is dedicated to educating both parents and their children on the danger of drugs!”

Michelle Anderson opened the program with information about the group and its mission; it was clear from the start that this organization is focused on education. Several speakers articulated the need for additional education as the primary focus.

It was not an event most reporters would have covered; even if they had, it may not have been printed or aired. There was no finger pointing. There was no attempt to establish blame. There was simply a concentrated, united attempt to heighten awareness, educate concerned citizens and engage all of us in a process of becoming more in-tune with our community.

Topics included social media, parenting tips, signs that send up red flags and a plan of action to help all of us engage. The speakers did an excellent job educating. One of the most useful ideas discussed was the anonymous tip lines. Our high school has had a tip line for three years, and last week, a tip line was added at the middle school and at the St. Francis Police Department.

Why the tip lines? Great question. Tip lines have been used in several settings and people use them every day. If you notice a fire in your neighborhood, you call 911. You don’t think about it. You don’t analyze it. You don’t wonder about it. You make the call. Some might say “that’s a little extreme. It is an emergency.” True enough. Let’s assume you saw a field fire heading toward a neighborhood. Yes, once again, call 911 because it could get to the level of an emergency if action is not taken. You feel a certain amount of responsibility to help take care of our community.

Let’s not spend too much time talking about apps on your phone designed to give you tips on restaurants, travel directions, cars, shopping and who knows what else. Let’s not talk too much about the oldest tip line known to humankind: word of mouth. We get the word out because we believe the message is important.

We now have three tip lines. How tough are they to use? The action is simple because it is a phone call; however, the decision to make the call is where people struggle. “I don’t want to tell on my brother. He might get in trouble.” If you are contemplating making a tip line call, chances are, your brother is already in trouble. Calling to report a fire that is about to destroy property is the right thing to do and is done promptly without a second thought. As a community, I believe we can be equally diligent for each other. Make the call.

Please choose to engage. As a community, we need each other.

Ed Saxton is the superintendent of the St. Francis School District.

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