Archive for September, 2017

GRATITUDE: PART 2

My last blog entry chronicled some of the many people who did extraordinary work here in Pearland during and after the most devastating flood in U.S. history.  Now, I’ll share the personal perspective of just one family.  The father is a Technology Technician in our school district.  The Mom is an elementary teacher in our district.  She just wrote me the following email:

Dr. Kelly,

 I just want to take a short minute of your time and let you know what the Dawson students and staff did for my family’s neighborhood.

 Last Friday a group of students and staff from Dawson came to our house to help. My husband, Tim, works at Dawson in technology. He had received a call Thursday saying that they were coming. Tim told them that we already had a crew from our church coming, but he was told the Dawson crew was coming anyway. 🙂  One of the coaches arrived around 8:00 am and did not leave until my husband left around 7:00 pm. I think there were around 6 or 7 others from Dawson who came to help, including students. Tim said one student came in, walked over to him, said, “Thank you for being a teacher,” picked up a trash bag and started working. There are no words to describe what either of us were feeling at that moment. Absolutely no words. As I am typing this, I am still getting teary eyed thinking about it.

 Later that morning, as we were walking in and out of the house carrying things, I saw a school bus pull up and out came a bus load of students. I didn’t know who they were, but Tim knew as he looked at them that they were Dawson students. The students walked toward our house and asked if they could help. At that point in time there was no more room for any more help in our house, so I asked if they wouldn’t mind helping others down our street. They all shook their heads and started walking, stopping as they came to a house. Small group by small group these students disappeared into houses and were seen carrying trash bags out, carrying possessions and furniture out. They were seen honestly working up a sweat. And not a single one of them looked like they minded a little sweat. 🙂

 I wish I had been able to take pictures of the faces of the house owner’s. It is hard to explain their expressions. A few words that I can think of are amazed, grateful, overwhelmed and astonished. To see their smiles made my heart sing.

 Later that afternoon as I was driving to run an errand, I passed a church parking lot and saw not only the school bus that dropped the students off on my street, but THREE school buses parked in that parking lot. THREE buses! I was late told that there were about 150 students and staff that came out to help.

 I wish I could tell you in words what I feel when I think about those kids and adults from Dawson. To know that, yes, a few of them knew Tim, but the majority of the kids were there because they knew that their community needed help is indescribable. To know that these students took time away from their families to help total strangers because they were in need, there are no words.

 As an employee of this district, it makes me so very proud to be a part of this school community. To see, in action, what these students are being brought up to be and to do. Not only to be academically successful, but to be a successful citizen and member of their own community. To be a caring and compassionate adult and human being. To see that if there is a need that they can act on it. As a member of this community, on the receiving end of this help, it makes me cry with gratitude. It makes me want to take pictures and videos and post them on all the social media that I can to show that THIS is what the world should be.  To show that THESE students are making a difference in the world. To let everyone know that there is hope and faith in the younger generations and that what we need to do is to support them and tell them how much we appreciate them and how proud of them we are!

 Thank you letting me share with you this amazing experience we had with the students from Dawson High School. Thank you for letting me take a minute to give them a huge shout out and let you know just how awesome the staff and students from Dawson are!!

 DruEllen Duncan, Fourth Grade Teacher, Massey Ranch Elementary School

From Dr. Kelly:  In the midst and in the aftermath of the storm, stories like this abound in Pearland.  For example, the same outreach efforts were made by the PHS students, led by teachers and coaches, who helped man the shelter at that school in addition to work in the community.  We are blessed to live here in Pearland!

GRATITUDE: IN THE WAKE OF THE STORM!

In the wake of flood devastation described as the worst in U.S. history, I join many others in expressing gratitude for the sacrificial work of so many right here in Pearland.  Specifically:

  • Our teachers, administrators and staff:  We re-opened our schools to our children on Tuesday (which was earlier than all surrounding districts). Believe it or not, we had a higher attendance rate for our employees than on the same post-Labor Day in 2016! As I visited with teachers and staff, their “can do”, sacrificial approach shines. If early tabulations are correct, about 10% of our staff were at least temporarily displaced during the storm. About 4% remain displaced now. 14% are themselves hosting displaced folks from Pearland and elsewhere. Yet, as I asked them about these things, the almost universal response was to focus instead on the needs of the children and their co-workers. Over the past two weeks, I’ve heard story after story of those who were flooded – and then went out to help their neighbors!
  • Our maintenance, custodial, bus drivers, and food service personnel: In the midst of the storm, those critical personnel were inside our schools cleaning, removing any water, transporting evacuees, and feeding city critical personnel workers and needy flood victims. Some of our people came from flooded homes and streets and yet were feeding/cleaning the massive areas of the PHS shelter on a daily basis.
  • Our local churches and civic organizations:  Everywhere one went, there were folks helping our families dig out, find food, etc.  Pearland’s faith in God and love for neighbor was made manifest.  For example, Crosspoint Church operated a shelter until the very hour when flood waters prevented access.  And now they will welcome Samaritan’s Purse to headquarter local work here.  Another example:  Crossroads Church set up a massive food and materials distribution voluntarily manned by a small army of their congregation.  They were in force after church on Sunday.  There are too many other churches and civic organizations (like the Lion’s Club, Neighborhood Center, etc.) to mention.
  • Local businesses: Again, the list is too long. For example, Grazia Restaurant delivered tons of food to those in shelters, to our police, and to others. As I write this, HEB is delivering a massive amount of supplies to our Board Room for distribution to students, families, and staff. Special thanks also goes to the “Pearland Recovery Assistance Team” organized by Buck Stevens and Rick Torrison.
  • Our students:  Hundreds of students volunteered in the midst of the storm.  They manned the shelter at Pearland High School.  They removed sheet rock and possessions from flooded houses.  They took care of pets displaced by the storm.  The list goes on and on.  I also appreciate the coaches and teachers who led them.
  • Our parents:  Countless numbers of parents contributed by manning our shelter (or at other locations), collecting clothes and food, removing sheet rock, and many other things.  This week, our combined PTAs operated their “swap shop” to hand out clothing to those in need.
  • Our city/county/government: Whole areas of Pearland avoided the worst because of years of planning with regard to roads, water detention areas, utilities, etc.  While no man made system can ever overcome the worst flooding in U.S. history, Pearland did better than the areas north, south, east, and west of us.  On top of that our first responders were everywhere.  When their original Recreation Center emergency location was compromised by flooding, the Pearland police set up operations in a part of our high school – and SLEPT there between shifts!  In turn, grateful people brought them food, supplies, and even underwear!  Later I had the opportunity to attend a city council meeting during this crisis.  Among others who spoke was our great City Manager Clay Pearson. As he described the work of others, he was overcome with emotion and thankfulness.
  • Pearland ISD Leaders:  There were many.  But I’d like to single out those who were just about everywhere every day during and after the storm.  They included Keith Ordeneaux (who both oversees our facilities and is a city council member), Larry Berger (Our Maintenance Director – AKA Captain America), Matt Cline (AKA Iron Man, who did a little of just about everything), Kim Hocott (our Executive Director of Communications), Raul Cruz (our Transportation Director) and Dorothy Simpson (Food Services Director).  We also witnessed our School Board members setting the example by manning our shelter, delivering food, etc.
  • What is the net result of all these relief efforts?    No one can adequately quantify what’s been done and what remains to be done.  But one key statistic relevant to school operations is this:  On our first day back (Tuesday, September 5) we had a student attendance rate of 97%.  This is slightly above the annual average attendance rate for our school district.  Amazing.  Uplifting.
  • I’ll share just one story that illustrates many things: Last Friday night, the number of evacuees in our PHS shelter began to dwindle as folks made their way home, or to relatives or elsewhere. At perhaps 7 p.m., a young woman approached the registration table. She was deaf and only able to communicate through typing messages on her phone. Mrs. Polly Breaux Gandy, a Pearland ISD parent, was manning the registration area. She began exchanging messages with the woman. It turned out she lived with two other disabled adults and two children. They were very hungry. The folks manning the food service area gave her a big plate and she devoured it in about 5 minutes. As she got up from the table, Mrs. Gandy noticed the woman winced and limped. After more text exchanges, she revealed she had hurt her leg. In turn, that prompted notification of the volunteer medical staff located a hallway away. They came to her with a wheelchair, took her to the medical area, and examined her at length, exchanging messages on a notepad. Meanwhile the volunteers in the food area piled up boxes of food and other items for placement in the woman’s car. Mrs. Gandy then followed the woman home and determined further needs. About an hour later, she reported the situation to another volunteer (Tanya Dawson – our Pearland ISD attorney – performing various duties night after night in the shelter). The next day, Tanya visited the house and delivered a mountain of more food. The children were particularly delighted – and all were most grateful. School personnel, parents, community members, volunteer medical staff, our school attorney, those who donated food/clothing/paper plates, etc. ALL contributed to what would have otherwise been a terrible situation for nearby flood victims. This is one of a thousand stories in Pearland, Texas.

I am filled with profound GRATITUDE to God and to those who acted in the midst of the storm – and in its wake thereafter. Truly, it is a blessing to live in Pearland!