Central High School is filled with wonderful students and fabulous teachers. As we creep to our holiday season, I find myself, like many others, compelled to reflect upon all that I am grateful for. I have been afforded a great opportunity as the principal of this outstanding educational institution.
When I was asked to come to Central High to help turn it around, I felt that this task would be daunting. However, I soon found that, while still a tremendous responsibility, I was in awe of the quality of the students who attend this wonderful school. I found students who were kind, compassionate, patient and willing to lend a hand. I am humbled and honored to be their principal.
Additionally, I was bowled over by the level of commitment of many of our staff members. I often arrive daily to work between 5:45 and 6 a.m. Many days I find that I am not the first person here. Similarly, as the principal of a high school, one often leaves quite late in the evening because of the ever present evening activities high schools offer. Those same individuals often walk out with me as we leave for the evening at 7, 8 and even 9 p.m. For them I am thankful!
On Nov. 18, our school's ROTC unit, currently number two in the nation out of more than of 625 programs, held its annual parade of inspection. In excess of 300 Central High School cadets were dressed in their military attire, assembled to be inspected by, and receive awards of excellence from, Brig. Gen. James S. Hartsell, chief operating officer of Hernando Health Care and Brooksville Regional Hospital. This is the same ROTC unit that last school year earned $2.5 million in scholarships for their senior class.
Months earlier our Senior ROTC Instructor, Lt. Col. Mike Ralph, had invited all School Board members, county commissioners, as well as school district office personnel, to attend. Understandably, there was a scheduling conflict with the School Related Employee of the Year celebration. For the superintendent who was recovering from surgery, I totally understand his absence. However, I believe there could have been a discussion among the board members as to who might go to which event.
Possibly, the commissioners could not attend the ROTC parade because they were off supporting Hernando High's football team, which was competing in the regional football playoffs. But no. They were not attending the Hernando High football playoff game to my knowledge. I am unaware of any major political event that may have precluded the commissioners from attending either event. Then again, had there been a scheduling conflict, they too could have discussed who might attend which event.
In our community many folks grouse about the state of affairs of our young people. They complain about their music, their styles and their lack of initiative. On Nov. 18, some of the leaders of tomorrow were gathered on a field at Central High School, and Hernando High School's football team were gathered on a football field, playing their hearts out for their school and our county. The leaders of today were too busy to attend either event.
The public's level of satisfaction with our Congress is 9 percent. My level of satisfaction with our county government is zero percent. I am disgusted and embarrassed with the apparent lack of interest and feeling of entitlement that many of our community leaders show. The only official who wasn't too busy was Sheriff Al Nienhuis. To you, sir, I am thankful that you made the time to show our students the respect they deserve, and thankful that you demonstrated what it is to care for our community and our young people.
Saturday morning another leader of our community showed his respect, U.S. Rep. Rich Nugent, who organized a community event which brought bankers together to help his constituents who might have been struggling with their mortgages. He spoke about what he is trying to accomplish in Washington, D.C., and how the public could help. Rep. Nugent, I am thankful for your leadership, care and concern for this community.
Leadership is a great responsibility. To those who have been given much, much is expected of you. County commissioners and School Board members, much is expected of you. Never let an opportunity to show respect for our children slip through your hands again. They are watching what you do, and it is your responsibility to model for them true leadership. It was you who campaigned for this job, you who asked for the responsibility, you who said you can make a difference.
Step up or step out, I'll be thankful either way.
Joseph P. Clifford is principal of Central High School.