When we moved to Indianapolis from Horn Lake, Austin was in the middle of 7th grade. The teachers at Eastwood Middle School made him feel like a rock star, instead of the new kid from the South that he was.
Just two months later, Austin was nominated by a collection of his teachers for the annual Citizenship Award.
There was, of course, the usual middle school ceremony. Pictures were taken, awards and pins were distributed, speeches were made and parental applause was predictable.
But what I will never forget is a speech by Dr. Eugene White, who was the Superintendent of Washington Township schools at the time. As per usual, I cried. (In my own defense, I had been racked with pent-up guilt and fear about the move here.)
Dr. White spoke to the kids, of course, telling them how proud he wanted them to be of their accomplishments and contributions. They had defined themselves as examples now, and much would be expected of them. They had bright, bright futures.
Then, he addressed the parents. We were to be credited for our children’s moment of excellence. He told each child to turn to his parents and hug us and say thank you. We were the keys to their success. We were their champions - their biggest fans – and they were never to forget that.
I started to write Dr. White a letter once, but I thought he probably got tired of reading the same old thing about his gifts of hope and principle from grateful parents.
Besides, he’s an incredibly busy man having since moved on to the Indianapolis Public School system, where his tireless and sometimes thankless work, not to mention his character, is desperately needed.
In today’s Indianapolis Star, there is yet another article that defines who this man is. He has refused a pay raise for himself this year. The Board gave him $17,000 cash bonuses for meeting academic goals, but he declined the pay raise they offered saying that he didn’t feel right accepting the money amidst grueling teacher contract negotiations.
Dr. White is still a fresh air of faith for me.