“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured
by the compassionate actions of its members.”
– Coretta Scott King
By Jim Brescia,
SLO County Superintendent
North County is a wonderful place to work, live, play, and raise a family. Our schools and society have many linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic, and racial issues. Small rural communities like ours are experiencing changing demographics just like large cities, and our leaders must confront these needs, perspectives, and challenges. How do we collectively address everyone and build up our community? Violence across the United States was the topic of my March Superintendent’s Council which included Atascadero school leadership, law enforcement, mental health professionals and social services. Multi-agency discussions from my March meeting served as a springboard for the May summit.
The goal of our summit was to facilitate multi-agency communication and collaboration, present positive strategies for engagement, and to build community. Summit participants included students, parents, non-profit agencies, religious leaders, city & county officials, school leaders, elected officials, and law enforcement. Over 120 participants joined the afternoon summit held at the Vina Robles Signature Room.
Twelve table workgroups of 8-10 were formed consisting of multi-agency representation. Participants left with both short-term and long-term actions to proactively address community and school tragedies. Sheriff Ian Parkinson stated in his comments that “We can address our issues proactively, one relationship at a time.”
I opened the “Building Community Summit” reflecting on my initial student teaching experiences in San Diego just after the 1984 San Ysidro Massacre. Our Sheriff explained current practices in place to ensure student and community safety. He highlighted the high levels of collaboration between law enforcement and our schools, the digital mapping of every campus, and plans for testing of a mobile school safety App. Our county is one of the first in the state to digitally map every campus and to collectively prepare for disasters. Student speakers from North County, San Luis Obispo, and Nipomo stressed the importance of working together. Tony Milano, a local graduate, and owner of RadHuman, was joined by representatives from Atascadero detailing Bank of America’s “Rachel’s Challenge” resources.
Participants focused on examples of disconnect that have preceded conflict, concern, or crisis. Each workgroup presented at least one proactive suggestion that might mitigate disconnect. My office is now planning with the Children’s Services Network, the Sheriff, the Chief of Probation, and the Family Care Network to host a fall summit. I believe that together we can invest in our future by facilitating multi-agency communications, working collectively, and acknowledging that we are all part of a community. It is an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools.