By Julie Omer, CFO, MSBO Board President, Chief Financial Officer, Owosso Public Schools
Following are excerpts from comments given by incoming MSBO Board President Julie Omer at MSBO’s Annual Business Meeting held at the Amway Grand Plaza as part of the 2022 MSBO Annual Conference.
As I take over as president for MSBO from an amazing leader in Dena, it is a time for reflection and looking forward, particularly given the times that we have been through and the challenges that still lie ahead. It brings to my mind the feeling that, I suspect, all of our graduating seniors may also go through every year as they leave behind one role that they played in their life of being a K-12 student and move on to the next role. One of the traditions that we have in Owosso is the opportunity for our top seniors (those that are graduating with a 4.0 or better) to give a “starfish” award to a person that has influenced them along their journey in life that has led them to their graduation.
Are you familiar with the starfish story? A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stopping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks. “Because the sun is up, and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them farther in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
I went through the 26 stories that students shared about their selected starfish award recipients for 2021-22 and reflected on their meaning. Most of them won’t surprise you but as I go through them, I really want you to think about how someone else you know may have made a difference to you in a similar way or perhaps how you made a difference to someone else. They are all are worthy stories. I will share a few excerpts.
- An elementary principal allows a young student to help with small activities, even probably when help wasn’t needed to make them feel worthy
- An English teacher providing a place of calm and acceptance for a student during their first year of transition from Middle School to the High School
- A choir teacher sharing these words of wisdom with her exceptional student “even when you think you are correct you should act like you are wrong so that you open yourself up to fixing mistakes that you did not know you were making”
- A Spanish teacher providing acceptance of a student by working with them to find gender neutral language in Spanish after the student nervously shared their own personal discovery
- A social studies teacher demonstrating, by sharing his own personal story, that stress and anxiety doesn’t separate you from others but can bring you together
- A music teacher selflessly spending several hours after school every day with a student that didn’t have a drum at home on which to practice because of monetary challenges and then ultimately finding a way to give the student a drum to take home for their very own
- A father, mentor and coach all rolled into one, conveying the consistent message to their child “Don’t embarrass me” in such a humorous way to make sure they knew to not take themselves too seriously but to set the bar high for performance
- A science teacher putting up a picture showing light refracting through a prism and reaching a human eye asking students to interpret it on the first day of class. After some discussion, he gave his students his interpretation of the image. As the light enters the prism, its course is altered. It changes before it reaches the human eye. He said this is what his goal was for his class. It wasn’t perfect grades. It wasn’t competition for the highest score. It was a change in perspective. He wanted everyone to leave his class seeing the world in a different way: a deeper way, full of more understanding and curiosity. WOW, how powerful of a message is that?
The message that these students were trying to make is a clear and human one. If we have learned nothing during the pandemic, it is that we all need to make meaningful connections, create a safe and supportive environment, and provide opportunities for real growth.
Okay, I get it, you have to be wondering what this has to do with MSBO and specifically the profession of school business be that food service, transportation, facilities, technology, or the business office? First and foremost, don’t ever underestimate your professional abilities and obligations that allow all of those connections to happen in the school environment. Your role may not always be directly in a classroom or on a sports field, but those connections cannot happen without YOU providing your professional support to these endeavors. Equally important is your personal responsibility to look for opportunities to make a difference or recognize those that have made a difference for you. An attitude of gratitude going both ways is powerful in creating connections. MSBO conveyed this very well this last year with the simple message “Connected”.
As you wind down this school year and gear up for 2022-23, I challenge you to come up with your own starfish stories. To serve as a reminder of this challenge, a copy of the starfish story is being provided to you along with two important questions both professionally and personally:
- How will you make a difference to others (throw the starfish back in the water)?
- How will you honor those that have made a difference to you (How has someone “thrown you back in the water” to survive)?
The MSBO board and staff are here to continue to serve you, not only to help you “survive” but “thrive” in the challenging waters of the school business profession. We sink or swim together and create opportunities to make a difference in the lives we serve.
I appreciate the opportunity you have given to me to serve you, the membership, and look forward to a connected year ahead…
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- Don’t Miss Out on These Scholarship Opportunities
- It Has Been an Honor – Dena Mayer
- MSBO Membership Renewals Coming Soon
- MSBO Update – David Martell
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- Welcome New Members