“This world of ours … must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be instead a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Similar to today, throughout the history of our great nation, our communities, schools, and government have faced multiple linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic and racial issues. Today, both large urban areas such as Los Angeles and smaller rural areas such as San Luis Obispo County experience changing racial and ethnic demographics. We sometimes hear people reminisce about the “good old days” and forget our history. Today’s school and community leaders, just like yesterday’s, must continue to meet the needs, perspectives, and challenges that individuals from all backgrounds possess. 

So how do we serve a modern society, build up our entire community, and learn from the past?  One such path has been our annual, multi-agency, community summits. In response to school and community violence across the United States, my Superintendents’ Council has convened two “Building Community Summits,” and discussions are currently underway for the fall 2019 summit supported by a grant from the Department of Homeland Security.   

This year’s summit will continue to facilitate multi-agency communication and collaboration, present positive strategies for community engagement and leverage county resources.  Summit participants will once again include students, parents, nonprofit agencies, religious leaders, city and county government officials, school leaders, elected officials, and law enforcement. More than 220 participants joined the previous summits held in North County at the Vina Robles Signature Room and Cuesta College’s San Luis Obispo Campus. Workgroups of 8-10 participants were formed consisting of multi-agency representation. The participants left both Building Community Summits with short-term and long-term actions that each agency could participate in to build up our community and proactively address community and school tragedies. Rachel’s Challenge founder Darrel Scott opened the Cuesta College Summit. Mr. Scott’s daughter Rachel was one of the first students killed in the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. Mr. Scott stressed the importance of joining forces for good as a way to honor the young lives lost.

July photo 4

I opened both summits by reflecting on my student teaching experiences in San Diego just after the 1984 San Ysidro massacre. 


Sheriff Ian Parkinson stated in his comments that, “We can address our issues proactively, one relationship at a time.”   

Officials highlighted the high levels of collaboration between law enforcement agencies and our schools, the digital mapping of every school campus in our county, and the implementation of county-wide mobile safety apps. Because of the Sheriff’s efforts, along with the Office of Emergency Services, San Luis Obispo County is one of the first in the state to digitally map every campus collaboratively preparing for county disasters. Student speakers from Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, and Nipomo stressed the importance of working together to address issues and
challenges openly.  

Participants of the summits focused on examples of community/agency disconnect that have preceded conflict, concern, or crisis. Each workgroup presented at least one proactive suggestion that might mitigate personal or agency disconnect to prevent disputes, concerns, or emergencies. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education is now planning with the Children’s Services Network, the Sheriff’s Office, the Chief of Probation, and the Family Care Network to host a fall Building Community Summit and encourage the participation of interested parties. 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 shared community. It is an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools.