This past weekend we celebrated Father’s Day. As I look back on my career as an educator, which is unbelievably approaching two decades, there are many strong influences on my life and my work. However, one influence stands out above them all and I would like to take some time to highlight this man in this space because I believe all of us in education could learn from the example he set. That man is my David Bagley, my father.
Dad spent his entire 43-year career in public education in one school district- the Barton-Lexa School District. Forty of those years were spent as the Principal of the high school. I was the oldest of his four children. My three younger siblings were born 358 days apart. Once they came along, my Dad had me with him a large part of the time. Consequently, I got to observe him up close on the job. I learned so much just by watching him that still informs my judgment today. In fact, while he isn’t the only influence on my career, I don’t think it is a coincidence that I spent more time than my siblings around him at work and am the only one of us that followed Daddy into the field.
There isn’t enough room in this space to tell all of the stories that I think encapsulate why we would all be better off if the field of education were filled with more like my Dad, but I hope to choose a couple of stories. One that has always stuck with me dates back to when I was in elementary school. I recall it was game day at home. Afternoons on home game days were always busy for Dad. I believe this was a football game day. Usually, I stayed after school and trailed Daddy as he got ready for the game, which I always looked forward to with unbelievable anticipation. Daddy made sure things were ready for the visiting team, money boxes were ready for both gates, checks were ready for officials, the score clock was set up, and a host of other things. As I got older, he taught me how to do some of those things. This day stands out because someone threw up in a bathroom and left a mess. Daddy immediately headed for the custodial closet. As he got the mop and the cleaning chemicals, I asked him why didn’t he call a custodian since this wasn’t his job. He said, “The custodian has gone home. Everything is our job if it needs to be done. Now help me.”
That attitude was not uncommon then. I remembered many times Daddy and other members of the staff went the extra mile beyond what their contracts required because things simply needed to be done. I learned an important lesson that day, and I think it is as important now as it was then. So many issues we face in public education and in society at large wouldn’t seem so daunting if everyone had Daddy’s mindset to always pitch in to help whenever needed because we are all in this together. Throughout my career and in my time as the President of our School Board, I have seen so much time and energy wasted in grievance hearings where the issues ultimately boiled down to fighting over what was someone’s job instead of focusing on how we could all help to pull together and get things done.
Another thing I learned from that story as I looked back on it and many other instances with my Father is that leadership by example engenders so much more confidence from those you lead. Daddy never asked someone to do something that he wasn’t willing to do himself. He always held himself to the highest standards of performance, ethics, and integrity. If a bus needed to be driven on a trip, Daddy pitched in when there was no one else. Daddy didn’t go home before all the students had been picked up after a game unless he took them home himself. He even worked with students sometimes outside of class if it was in his area of academic expertise. The list is endless.
The point of all that is education needs that kind of leadership today. Federal and state policy makers are quick to offer all sorts of mandates on school districts and staff when they would either never do those things themselves in their own professional lives or don’t understand what they are asking of us and don’t even utilize the public school system with their own children. (That is a whole other column I may write someday on what I learned from Dad).
As I grew older and observed and listened, I noticed that most of the teachers and staff that worked for Daddy pitched in and pulled together because they loved the school and knew he was working hard right alongside them. We would all be well-served if we had more of that kind of leadership today and it has been something I have tried to keep in mind as I have tried to set a positive example as the President of the School Board for HWHSD and as President of the Faculty Senate at PCCUA.
In closing, there may be more columns talking about education in the future with wisdom I received from Daddy. But on this Father’s Day, I want to close by saying thank you to my Dad and hope that all Dads, including me, will remember the importance of the example we set for our children and work to have the kind of positive, long-term impact as my Dad had with me. Until next time, GO COUGARS!