Monday, August 10, 2009

Closing a Chapter

When I was growing up I aspired to be four things things; a country singer, a hair dresser, Ms. America, and the first female President of the United States. My mom had somewhat dif

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ferent plans for my life. As early as I can remember - somewhere around, oh I don't know, birth, she would tell me, "Kristen, you are going to grow up, graduate from high school, go to college, graduate from college, fall in love, get married, and then have a baby."

When I would share my dreams with her, she would explain that while I was a wonderful singer (I sounded remarkably like Reba McEntire thanks to my dual cassette player), it would be hard to achieve that dream because country singers have to sing in bars (my dad was a preacher, so that was out). She said that if I still wanted to be a hair dresser after I went to college and got my degree, then we could talk. She didn't really address the Ms. America issue, but I was only 5'4", and Ms. Montana never made the top 25, so who were we kidding. She did, however, believe that I could be the first female president, which is why she didn't vote for Hillary.

My mom got most of it right. I did graduate from high school and college, although I must admit I fell in love before I graduated. We waited until we graduated to get married. Aside from a few kareoke stunts, (all in bars) I haven't made it big in the country scene. Aside from a few botched haircuts (sorry Richie) I really haven't made it big in the hair stylest scene.

Nowhere in my plan did I end up in Texas working in school PR.

For the past 12 years I spent five days a week dedicating my life to spreading the good news about Texas Public Schools. It may not be as glamorous as Nashville, but it has been the most fulfilling job one could ask for. Public schools have long been a whipping board for people who usually have a political agenda and probably have not set foot in one in the past 30 years. Almost everyone will say that education is their number one priority and yet very few people will step up to the plate when it comes time to actually vote to fund that priority or to volunteer to make those schools a better place.

Public schools accept all students, regardless of ability, income, race, limitations, special needs, language spoken, parental support, or even if they have a home to go home to. We are very aware that many of our students eat their only two hot meals when they come to our schools. What you hear is that public schools these days aren't safe. What you don't hear is that for many of our students, school is the safest place they go all day. It is an escape from their life on the street, a life of abuse. It is the only chance that they have. It is the only place they go where someone believes in them. You don't hear the stories about the teenage mother who goes back to school and works to graduate while the district pays for her child to be in daycare. If not for that success story of public school, we would have a single mother with no way to support her daughter.

And still, with all of these challenges, Texas public schools are succeeding at a higher rate than ever before. Test scores are rising, even with ever increasing standards. More students are graduating and going to college or getting certificates that will allow them to go into the workforce with a skill. There are more success stories than ever before.

I encourage you to visit a public school near you. If you haven't been into a public school in the past ten years you will be amazed what you find. You will see dedicated teachers utilizing technology and the latest teaching methods. You will find incredible diversity in even the most suburban districts. You will see challenges and you will see successes.

I closed the chapter on my time in school PR last week. I resigned from my position as the Director of Communications for Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD for health reasons after nine years in the district. But as I move on to a new chapter in my life I will continue to be an avid supporter of public schools. I hope you will take another look at our public school system. I realize it isn't perfect, but I am certainly proud to have been a part of it.

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  1. Kristen, I was very sad to hear about your resignation last week. We all LOVE you and wish you nothing but the best as you begin a new chapter in your life!

    ~Cindy Tucker

  2. Kristen, I am a bit sad as well, but I am also so happy for you! What a be given the chance to be with your sweet babies and use your writing talent to minister to others. Enjoy this season. It will pass sooner than you can imagine.
    Love you!

  3. Thanks Deanne. I have to say that you have been extremely influential in my life, both personally and professionally. You have helped mold me into the PR pro and the mom I am today. I am so blessed to have you in my life.