It has always struck me that public education is a vocation marked by saying “hi” and “goodbye”  that is unlike other professions.  Children are loved, nurtured and challenged.  We have the privilege of witnessing the transformation take place as they grow and mature into young adults.  Watching and aiding as their gifts unfold.  By the time their senior year ends, they are ready for new life experiences and new challenges.  The metamorphosis provides the wings they need to take flight, but that doesn’t make watching them leave the comfort of the nest any easier.

I embraced my son in the parking lot of the University of North Dakota a couple weeks ago.  It was a hug meant to convey a thousand words and feelings in the span of a few precious moments.  Love, pride, gratitude, hopes and dreams all shrouded in the cloak of sentimentality I inherited from my mom.  Eyes misting as we drove off — how I will miss him being part of our daily lives.  A life transition for both of us.  It is with thankfulness that I acknowledge the role that the school, church and community played in molding and shaping the young man he has become. 

Through my own reminiscing of days gone by, I am reminded of the emotions parents feel as they put their children on the bus to their kindergarten class for the very first time.  Will the school take care of them?  Will they like their teacher?  Will they make friends?  If it alleviates any sense of apprehension — the universal answer to these questions is profoundly “yes,” but this transition can take longer for some than for others. 

Enjoy the years ahead as they fly by faster than one would think. 

I am reminded of the emotions parents feel as they watch their children leave for their first day as seniors and the series of “lasts” that will mark their passage through the year.  To our seniors and their parents - enjoy the year ahead.  It will fly by faster than you would think.  

Why are schools back in session amid a global pandemic?  Because the care and education of children is one of the most important functions of a civilized society.  As educators, we accept the challenges and opportunities before us with recognition that our work is absolutely essential.

“History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children,”  Nelson Mandela.

With a newfound chill in the air signaling either the return of fall or the portent of things soon to come, another school year is officially underway.  As much as things are different: masks; social distancing; temperature scanners and hybrid and distance learning schedules — much also remains the same.  When the students come through the doors, they bring the energy and enthusiasm of youth.  They bring curiosity and wonder.  They bring spontaneity and laughter.  I can’t emphasize enough what a joy it is to have them back with us.

As the new school year begins, it is a time for us to say “Hi!”  — “Welcome back!” — “It is good to see you again!”  

Thanks for putting your faith and trust in us.  The 2020-21 school year promises to be a remarkable journey


Jeff Drake is the superintendent of Fergus Falls Public Schools.

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