It’s easy to criticize. We all do it from time to time, mostly because we have an evolutionary predisposition toward the negative. Four of the six primary emotions human beings experience regardless of cultural context are bad ones: anger, fear, sadness, and disgust. Though we can override our negative bent to some extent, we should be thankful for it because it has been responsible for the survival and propagation of our species for hundreds of millennia.
And while I have been a vocal critic of some of our local school district’s past decisions, I try to always be balanced in my views and recognize that Hillsborough County Public Schools has done a great deal of good over the years as well. Most recently, our superintendent, Jeff Eakins, made a laudable decision and I am writing this today to share my gratitude.
Thank you, Mr. Eakins.
Like most school districts in the Tampa Bay area, HCPS decided to close down on both Thursday and Friday. While this decision was prompted by the need to prepare many of our schools to be used as shelters for those who are evacuating from the southern parts of the Sunshine State, I think I speak on behalf of all HCPS employees when I say that I deeply appreciate the additional time given to us to make necessary preparations for Hurricane Irma. Most of my neighbors are still continuing to go to work, some of whom even need to work through Saturday, which leaves them little time to get ready for the storm.
Beyond the additional time, however, an even more gracious gesture offered by our district leadership was the decision to pay all employees a week in advance. I’ve only read of one other district that did this (Brevard), and we all owe a debt of gratitude to HCPS for helping us further prepare by providing additional funding families may need to purchase supplies such as groceries and gasoline. This will undoubtedly be especially helpful to those employees who are single parents who want to ensure their children–most of whom are our students–are taken care of both during and after the storm.
But my gratitude is not reserved for Mr. Eakins alone.
I am thankful for the payroll and IT departments who worked tirelessly to see this mission completed in a timely manner. I am grateful for our principals’ administrative assistants who sat at their desks all day on Wednesday to complete the payroll reports. I am also grateful for the administrators and custodial teams all over our county who selflessly spent additional days at work to prepare our schools to serve as shelters for evacuees.
It may take an impending hurricane for us to pull together despite our differences, but it is encouraging to see the way all Floridians are working assiduously to ensure the safety of our fellow citizens. We are all one human family after all. Let’s be thankful we have each other to lean on.
May you and yours stay safe during the storm.