One of the greatest examples of unity is found in the epic film, Gladiator. Set in 180 A.D., a highly respected Roman army general by the name of Maximus (played by Russell Crowe) uses his physical and leadership skills to maneuver through conflicts within the movie.
After being betrayed and seeking to avenge the deaths of his beloved family and admired Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Maximus finds himself among a band of misfits at center stage inside the Roman coliseum about to become the entertainment at the expense of his death.
Staring at the large wooden entry gates, waiting to see what superior forces might come charging at them with carnage in mind, the necessity for unity is found. Maximus turns to his small group of nervous comrades and says … "whatever comes out of these gates, we’ve got a better chance of survival if we work together … do you understand! … if we stay together, we survive!"
And they do survive – except for one guy who decides to wing it on his own and doesn’t last long. It is here where the lesson of unity is found. The power of unity is incredible. Our own history is filled with examples of daunting situations. Turn a page and we find more times than not a positive outcome when people unite.
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Today, public school advocates are witnessing the opening of society’s modern wooden gates. With public education at center stage, a multitude of factors are converging fast.
On average each year, 80,000 new students are added to our total school enrollment. In perspective, that equates to adding an entire Fort Worth school district to the map of Texas every 365 days.
The cost of educating 5.2 million Texas students is over 50 billion dollars. And yet, Texas ranks within the bottom 20 percent in funding per student in the United States.
Political beliefs on the far left and far right are flanking public education on both sides; one threatening control from the top-down while the other pushes to dismantle and privatize the system of public schools.
The age of technology has become the accelerator – forcing educators to rightfully question how and what we teach our children as we prepare them for a rapidly changing world.
And at the center of it all – bridging communities between neighborhood schools and policymakers is the locally elected steward – the school board trustee.
The role of a trustee has a brighter spotlight than ever before. The responsibilities of service to local communities is at a new high – a paradigm shift in heightened obligation. School board trustees have a duty of relevancy to protect a system of education that fosters continuous learning. It is an educated public that protects our social democracy while allowing individual pursuit for prosperity.
With the convergence of change before us, 7,300 Texas trustees have a unique opportunity to hold the role of leadership by bringing everyone to the table under the terms of transparency, accountability, and engagement.
If history finds us successfully ushering new generations of lifelong learners into society, it will be because history found us – all of us – united.
▪ Bobby J Rigues
Founder and CEO, Make Education a Priority; Aledo ISD School Board Trustee; Leadership TASB Master Trustee - 09; TASB Board of Director, Region 11.
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