After what ended up being a strange week here at CEG, I thought it might serve present and future client parents well to do a little personal reflection on perspective. My name is (Mary) Kate (Davis) Cumiskey, and I lead this little firm. I type my name that way because I am old, and once upon a time, when I went to New Smyrna Beach Senior High for example, I was Mary Kate Davis, and some people still call me “Mary Kate.” The perspective of others sometimes shifts when they realize I’m a Davis. Long story for another time.
What we are made of, who we become, is a compilation of our experiences. I have been noted, lauded, and criticized for my “fearlessness” when it comes to dealing with those others perceive as authority figures. My perspective on authority comes from my parents–just like most of yours probably do. I often think of my mother’s acerbic, “you wouldn’t worry what people thought of you if you knew how little they did.” She meant that very much the way it sounded. And it is still a course correction, for me. I don’t worry what people think of me. When I look at others’ lives, I can see how hard most people are working on and concentrating on their own concerns. People who spend a lot of time attacking others? They don’t interest me. They are obviously not very good at self-refection, because I am here to tell you, life is very hard and we all make mistakes, every day. It’s the human condition.
My father didn’t give a lot of advice. He was the only orphaned child of a Mississippi Depression sharecropper and a school teacher who had a full college education. My father was a civil rights worker in my native Alabama. He was one of NASA’s first American-born rocket scientists, a chief designer on Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Voyager, and the Space Shuttle. He taught me what you might call, “perspective.” From my father I learned my priorities and my place in the cosmos. He designed and built Baptist churches in his spare time, because he had HIS priorities straight. He was, first and foremost, a troubleshooter and pioneer, just like all seven of his children. He was a powerful, boots-on-the-ground problem solver who led by example, not word. And he knew he was a blink in the eye of time (which he taught me is a man-made tool), so he knew he had to get his own efforts as close to right as possible. Although the fellow playing my Dad in the movie Apollo 13 didn’t look like him, the perspective is correct: he was a steely-eyed missile man who got things done–the guy who led the team which redesigned the air-filter for the crippled ship. Dad taught me by example that it is often necessary to think out of the box to get your job done.
What I am saying here is, although I love people and want to see all those I love in heaven first and foremost, a long, practical view is important to me. When it comes to education, the singular perspective of helping each student achieve independence or as close to it in life, and to love learning so much they become life-long learners, is my goal. I don’t need to be everybody’s friends to do that. I know enough about the professionalism of most educators to know that they are TOO professional to take it out on students when they don’t “like” parents, or other stakeholders (like me) in the planning process. So, I don’t worry about that. I don’t need more friends–I have plenty of them. I also don’t wish to work with families where it will be a waste of my time. I don’t have much of that; none of us do. As your educational planner, I can be many things, and one of them is the person at the planning table who says the difficult things. I can be your bad guy. Persons in the district, throughout my career at CARD, often had me say things THEY weren’t able to say at the IEP table–I can do that, too, and have already had several calls from district level personnel thanking me for what I am doing, and asking me to convey information to parents, in specific and at large, they can’t say themselves and stay on the job. I’m okay with that. I am perfectly fine with being your, or their, bad guy at the table if it unifies the team! Let me be the one who says the hard stuff. I work for myself, I won’t get fired! And, a steely-eyed missile man taught me my place in the universe. He taught me, “if you know who and where you are, and can imagine a point in space and time, you can get there.” That’s where my perspective, and my confidence, comes from.
It is my belief that the tide is turning in Volusia County schools. With people like Linda Cuthbert and Jim Tager in positions where they can get the most possible done for the most possible stakeholders, I rest easy at night. These people, not the few petty back-stabbers and squabblers still around, are my friends. They have my confidence and my faith and the future is so bright, get out your shades. There’s very little we can’t do for students where our hearts and perspectives are correct.
And just for fun, a snapshot with one of the friends I cited, above, followed by a link to the website created by my poetry publisher. In “gallery” you can hear me read some of the poetry about my childhood in my second book, Yonder. And, see a couple of pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Tager–good shots of them, but not so great of me!