True-Life Experiences of CEDPA Directors
Addison Ching, California State University, Office of the Chancellor
In addition to voluntarily serving on the CEDPA board, CEDPA directors have full-time professional commitments in various educational agencies throughout the state. Sometimes these commitments take CEDPA directors into uncharted territories, and sometimes with unpredictable results. During the past month, CEDPA Directors have had their hands full with true-life experiences. Here is a recap of those experiences.
Rock and Roll Seattle
CEDPA Director and President-elect Scott Sexsmith and CEDPA Director and past-president Darryl LaGace were in Seattle, Washington, attending the Microsoft Connected Learning Community Technology Summit, a three-day gathering of school and education technology leaders from across the United States and Canada. More than 500 educators from over 250 school districts led and participated in sessions on teaching and learning, technology management and planning, and school leadership during the intensive, three-day conference in Seattle. The summit concluded with a keynote by Bill Gates sharing his belief that technology in the hands of great teachers is the single most powerful tool to improve student learning, create more agile and accountable schools, and increase parent and community involvement in education. However, Gates was upstaged by an untimely magnitude 6.8 earthquake that hit the Seattle area at 10:54 AM on February 28, 2001.
"After the quake hit (a long, long rumbling quake that seemed to never stop) we left the ballroom where Bill Gates and his associate were presenting Windows XP," said Sexsmith. "It was interesting to see how different people handled the stress." Scott continued, "Some panicked and ran over others as they headed to the doors. People from all over the states (and Canada) were in attendance and some had never experienced one [earthquake] before. Some cried, some prayed, some panicked, some were calm. I was just surprised about how long it lasted. It was like the Energizer bunny. It kept going, and going, and going. I half expected the ceiling of the ballroom to come down on us. Most of us waited for the shaking to stop and then left the ballroom to try to figure out what had happened. I was worried about my wife Sherilyn who was up on the 45th floor when it hit, packing up our bags so we could check out of the hotel that morning."
"Sherilyn and I finally met up in the hotel lobby (after what seemed an eternity of trying to find each other with no phone service) and then decided that we'd best get our rental car and head for the airport since we had a flight in a few hours. We were also worried about the possibility of aftershocks. The hotel rode out the quake pretty well but we did see some slight damage outside. Sherilyn, with her bird's-eye view from the 45th floor, saw some damage actually occurring during the quake. She said she was tossed around pretty well up there and lost her balance a couple of times," said Sexsmith.
After arriving at the airport, the Sexsmiths found that any hopes to leave the Seattle area were dashed by the damage to the airport from the earthquake. "After getting to the SeaTac airport we found it to be closed since the air control tower had been damaged. The place was absolutely packed with people not knowing what to do. Tiles from the ceiling were down and there were quite a few water leaks," said Scott. "We finally managed to get a hold of someone at Southwest Airlines on our cell phone (the phone system was overloaded and it was difficult to get a ‘live' line). We re-booked our flight out of Portland, Oregon, and drove south in a rental. We arrived at Portland with plenty of time to spare, had a couple of drinks in the airport to calm our frayed nerves, and got to Sacramento around 11:00 PM. Home a little after midnight and sound asleep shortly thereafter!"
While Californians are accustomed to earthquakes, this was, nevertheless, a harrowing and anxious experience for Scott and his wife.
Tragedy in San Diego
By now, the shooting on March 5, 2001, at Santana High School in Santee, California, by a 15-year old student of that school has been etched in the minds of everyone. Santana High School is one of the schools in the Grossmont Union High School District, a sprawling 9-12 district that covers much of east San Diego County. In addition to having an immediate impact on the educational process at Santana High School, the shooting also had a definite impact on the board's normal conduct of business.
In order to streamline the completion of CEDPA business, the board makes extensive use of electronic mail and teleconferencing to communicate conference matters and reach decisions concerning issues that require timely attention. Immediately after the shooting, the board noticed a significant absence of participation from CEDPA's president, Warren Williams. Later that week the board found out why. "I [have] been at Santana High School since Monday," reported Warren. Williams is Assistant Superintendent for Information and Technology Services for the Grossmont Union High School District and was undoubtedly involved with crisis management and counseling at Santana High School. A CEDPA board meeting previously scheduled for the end of the following week was hastily rearranged to accommodate Warren's availability. But it doesn't end here.
Tragedy Repeats Itself
No sooner had the wounds of the Santana High School shooting begun to heal, that another tragic shooting took place. This time the shooting involved an 18-year old student at another San Diego County high school, Granite Hills High School in El Cajon, California. Granite Hills High School is also a school of the Grossmont Union High School District. Reports credit Richard Agundez Jr., an El Cajon police officer assigned to the Granite Hills campus, with swift response and timely intervention that prevented further injuries or fatalities. "Agent Agundez is the hero of the day," said Granite Hills Principal Georgette Torres. "He certainly is our hero."
One of the first reports to the board of the shooting came from CEDPA Secretary Jane Kauble during the early afternoon of the day of the shooting. Jane messaged to the board, "Well...[it] looks like Warren is going to be tied up for awhile again! There was a shooting at Granite Hills High School in El Cajon. This is Georgette's school and in Warren's district."
The CEDPA board knows Georgette Torres as Georgette, wife of CEDPA President Warren Williams. As a true professional, Georgette later told me, "We can only become stronger because of this."
It's now back to business for the CEDPA board...as best as can be done under these difficult circumstances. However, the impressions of these true-life experiences will take a long time to dissipate, especially for those who were directly involved.