360 Days

President, Board of Trustees, East Side Union High School District ~ 2010

Summer in the Waiting Room: Faith • Hope • Love

Chapter 11: 360 Days

June 10, 2009, was graduation day for my high school alma mater. That morning kicked of a dizzying 360 days of tireless work and ambition. With my day job coming to an end, I rushed to the elevator to go ten floors down to the lobby of the County Administration Building. I hustled across a breezeway to my car. My next engagement was at James Lick High School, where I was to preside over the graduation ceremonies on behalf of the board of trustees. The formalities had all of the excitement and anticipation fitting a high school graduation. 

At the ceremony, the sound of a recorded version of “Pomp and Circumstance” started blaring over the stadium speakers. Wearing a black suit with a white shirt and dark green tie, I walked proudly onto the field next to the principal and found my seat on the stage. The faculty followed us to find their seats on the field. Graduates then filed into the stadium with their green and white gowns and tassels flowing in the wind to the cheers of family and friends. Standing up to watch the spectacle, I couldn’t help but think of my rocky road to this stage and how proud I was to preside over the very ceremony that my brothers, sisters, and I participated in so many years before.

Several months after my triumphant return to James Lick High School’s graduation, the school board elected me president for 2010. Once again, drive and ambition dominated my life. The new year started at full throttle. In my role as school board president, I could set the district’s agenda for the year. A student group, Californians for Justice, had been lobbying the board for over five years to institute a policy to make graduation requirements the same as college entrance requirements. Their effort was called the A-G Initiative. As president of the board, I had the ability to lead that effort. If successful, I could further solidify my chances to win the election in November.

The A-G Initiative became the centerpiece of my State of the District Address in January 2010, which I delivered to an overflow crowd at James Lick High School. In spite of the teachers union’s aggressive behind-the-scenes fight against the initiative, I enlisted the support of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation to educate the community on the merits of the initiative and put together a coalition of students, parents, and public officials to campaign for its passage. Adding to my workload, the inaugural class of a non-profit leadership academy I co-founded was scheduled to start soon. In response to my leadership on A-G, the teachers union had recruited a disgruntled former district superintendent to challenge me in the general election scheduled for November. 

The pressure and stress were almost unbearable, but this is exactly what I had sought since returning to college. To top it off, I was having fun. Sandra continued to express concern about how the pace was taking a toll on me. But I didn’t listen. I had failures to overcome. Ambition and energy drove me harder and harder. Sandra was right though, I was exhausted. Adrenaline fueled by my drive to succeed, and a steady infusion of Starbucks double vanilla lattes kept me working at a feverish pace.

***

Summer in the Waiting Room will be available in paperback and on Kindle June 7, 2022. Kindle users can pre-order a copy today: https://www.amazon.com/Summer-Waiting-Room-Faith-Hope-ebook/dp/B09ZFC5HFX

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