By DR. LARRY MOSES
No one asked me but… We no longer teach auto shop at Moapa Valley High School. There are those who would say “so what?” But let me give you an example why I feel it is sad that we have lost this important part or our educational system in the valley.
My friend and I were out enjoying the desert in his “side-by-side”. We were on a ride to find the “narrows.” We came upon a man pulled alongside the road with the hood up on his Dodge pickup. He explained that he had heard a soft pop and his engine had shut down.
Those who know me know I have the mechanical aptitude of a frog. My friend is very mathematically and industrially skilled but professes to know little about auto repair. I have a feeling, given time, he might have come up with a solution.
As we pondered the problem, I called my mechanical brain who takes care of me when I have automobile stresses. He gave us the only logical solution: to tow the vehicle so he could figure out what the problem was.
I have no doubt if we could have gotten the car and him together, he would have resolved the problem. However, as we talked, a young man in a large Ford pick-up stopped and offered assistance. He was wearing a Moapa Valley Pirate shirt and I guessed him to be in his mid to late thirties.
I stood in awe as the young man moved through a check list of what the problem might be. He listened to the fuel tank, where apparently there is a fuel pump, and determined it was functioning. He then moved to the fuse box where he changed some fuses without success. Then he looked at an electrical connection of some kind which led to the distributor, whatever that is, and found it had burned through.
Interestingly enough, the gentlemen who own the truck had a spare with him. When the young man replaced the wire, the engine fired up and the man was on his way.
I finally told the young man that I felt like I should know him but I could not come up with a name. I explained that as the kids I was privileged to work with twenty-five years ago grow up they change in appearance. He was kind and explained that he too knew many people in the valley by face but names escape him.
He introduced himself as Clint Olson. His mother is Jill Olson who worked with me as a hall monitor when I was the principal of the high school.
I would like to think that Clint stopped because he saw his old principal alongside the road but you know I really believe Clint stopped because of the influence of his family, school, and community. His family set his values of helping people in distress and his community taught him that one has an obligation to serve others.
I asked him if he worked as an auto mechanic. He responded ‘no’ but that he only works on vehicles as a hobby.
I then asked where he had learned his auto repair skills.
“John Kendell’s auto shop class,” was his reply.
We spent a few minutes reminiscing about a school program that was so important to so many of our youngsters and which no longer exists.
While MVHS can be proud of the many students who have gone on to professional careers, I got a short glimpse of the importance of vocational training that is no longer available to the students at MVHS.
We unfortunately are evolving into a society that believes the ability to write a five-paragraph essay is the most important thing in life. We are now defaulting to the ACT exam to determine if a student in a CCSD school is adequately educated. While I have no problem with stressing the importance of math, science, and writing skills, I do have a problem with devaluing the importance of vocational skills.
As I watch men like Clint and my friend from Utah demonstrate their skills I marvel and realize that in a survival situation, I am not anywhere near as interested in how well they write as how well they solve everyday problems. As far as I am concerned, until we complete with the task at hand, they are in charge. When the crisis has ended, I will volunteer to write a five-paragraph essay explaining how they did it.
No one asked me but… The Clark County School District is looking for a new superintendent. They have asked various groups to submit what qualifications the new superintendent should have. I will put my two cents in.
The superintendent does not have to be a financial wizard, though that might be helpful.
He/she does not have to be great educator, though that might be desireable.
The new superintendent needs to be an individual who can manage a $5 billion organization by selecting a great educator to run the education side of the district and a great financial mind to run the financial side of the district.
A great superintendent, like a great general, needs to have some hands-on experience. But he must now understand the overall picture and be willing to rely on his subordinates to carry out his/her master plan. He/she must understand that as the quarterback he/she depends on the line to protect him/her by doing their jobs correctly. He/she cannot do the job for them. He/she directs and manages them but relies on them to have the skills and knowledge to get the job done.
A great superintendent has to be an individual with enough personal integrity to tell the Board of Trustees things they do not want to hear. He/she has to have the charisma to develop loyalty from those who actually carry out the task of delivering education to our children.
The challenges for the new superintendent are daunting. He/she will be taking over a district with a highly fractured and poorly informed Board of Trustees, a district that is in the middle of a disputed reorganization, and a district that is a bottom feeder in almost all national educational rankings.
While this may sound like an undesirable situation, in actuality, it is a great opportunity. The new superintendent is walking into a situation where whatever he or she does could easily be an improvement. This is a great opportunity to turn what was once one of the best school districts in the United States back to its former glory.
Thought of the week… Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
– Winston Churchill