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In the 16th century cinnamon was worth more than silver. Wars were fought over it as the supply from its lone source; the island of Ceylon was depleted. Declining resources have often been a primary antecedent to conflict. San Diego Unified’s resources are certainly declining. I would like to believe that as a collective, united with a passion for our students, we can all come together and avoid conflict.

Our challenges are many. As a large urban school district we are replete with distancing mechanisms: those labels that serve to divide us. We are often split into categories: central office, school sites, administration, rank and file, unions, management, stakeholders, community, staff, parents and on and on.

San Diego Unified is a district in search of a “we.” It seems that whenever anyone refers to the district, it is in the third person plural “they.” Over many years we have lost the Unified in San Diego Unified. In 1989 I listened to Tom Payzant lecture my education leadership class. San Diego was the shining city on the hill of urban school district reform. In the interim something has been lost. We are a cacophony of “they” and “them” instead of “we” and “us.”

It is true that we are an entity with shrinking tangible resources. For five years now we have cut, transferred and emptied the coffers to the tune of $430 million. Fortunately for the students, some of our most important resources are not tangible. Trust, wisdom, team, collaboration and consensus are all resources that are not dependent on any external source or revenue. They are attributes that reside deep within each one of us and which enable an inexhaustible supply of ability and capability. District bill payers, teachers, bus drivers, administrators, counselors, parents, managers and maintenance workers are all equally capable of passion for student achievement and for the “unified” in San Diego Unified. No one group or resource holds an edge on caring or commitment for the students. No one group can function without all of us.

I would love to see all of us to join together, unified for the students, the ones who really matter. I implore each of us to set aside the “they” of dividing mechanisms and join in the “us” of unity and solidarity. If we do that, we will have the strength to stand united through whatever storm we face.

The word faith in Britain is most often used as a verb, not a noun. Please, let’s join together to faith each other instead of to fight each other. Our collective wisdom, maturity and self-control will enable us to serve our students well.

I grew up the son of a small town pastor. We didn’t have much, but we always had cinnamon toast for breakfast. The price of cinnamon has certainly come down over the centuries. The price of conflict is as high as ever. Please, all of us, for the good of all of the students, let’s come together in integrity, wisdom, maturity and selflessness. Those are the only resources no one can take away from us.

Phil Stover is the deputy superintendent of business at San Diego Unified School District.


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