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Superintendents’ Forum: Reflecting on the Importance of Community

This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle: https://www.readingeagle.com/2023/03/02/superintendents-forum-reflecting-on-the-importance-of-community/

By: Dr. Christopher Trickett, Wilson School District Superintendent

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Flipping through the pages of the Reading Eagle or browsing any of our favorite news or social media platforms, we are inundated with negative stories. Stories of rising crime, horrific violence, increasing homelessness, broken families, failing schools, and partisan politics dominate the headlines.

These stories can leave us uncertain about our future and even desensitized. How do we move forward and inspire our kids to create a better society, one filled instead with hope, optimism, and unity?

As an educator with more than 20 years of experience teaching and leading in our public school system, I spend many nights processing this idea. Our communities and public schools coming together is the only answer. In reality, the most significant barrier to overcome is the constant pull that we feel to divide each other, which leads us, at times, to focus on our individual needs rather than the needs of the whole.

This past Friday, our community faced a serious challenge; a call was made to the township police department, making a false report of an active shooter. Within minutes, nearly 100 first responders arrived at our high school, prepared to protect the safety of our students and staff members. There was no hesitation. They entered with the purpose and confidence needed to do their job. They quickly secured and swept the building, determined no imminent danger and provided a reassuring presence to our students, staff and families.

Police departments from throughout Berks County respond Friday to a report of an active shooter at Wilson High School. The report was determined to be a hoax. 

Reflecting on the day’s events with our team, we continued to come back to the importance of community. As we debriefed with the law enforcement officials on site, we were struck by the broad representation of agencies across Berks County. In many cases, officers were responding from departments miles away from Wilson, with no connection to our district. Yet, at the same time, it was evident that many of the responding police officers were also Wilson residents active in our community as parents, spouses, coaches and volunteers.

It’s days like Friday when we are reminded of the true definition of community. For a moment, our singular focus was on the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Everyone involved placed their individual needs aside and committed instead to the needs of the whole. This type of focus and selfless commitment is needed to change the narrative that permeates our newsfeeds. Crisis situation aside — it was inspiring.

It may be time for us to reflect on our definition of community. What does it mean to share common attitudes, interests, and goals? How would our behaviors or interactions change if we all agreed on this definition? How can we work together to create a better narrative?

The truth is, we are on the right path. There ARE stories of hope, optimism, and unity. I have the privilege of seeing them every day. The kindergartner who learns what it means to share with others. A middle school student who, for the first time, discovers a career path they never considered. The teacher who receives an email from a former student saying that the encouragement they received from them changed the direction of their life. The stories are endless; we must take the time to find them. So here’s where we start…

Today’s headline: Wilson School District Thanks First Responders for their Dedicated and Selfless Service to our Community.

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