In a recent article I was reading about the importance of communities, the author addressed the trend to acquire the most “likes,” happy faces, and positive comments possible. Social media and even what was once considered traditional media are consumed with quantity over quality, splash over detail. Rumor consistently outshines fact. As I age, I value my authentic and genuine relationships with people who love, respect and support me. Today’s schools face multiple linguistic, cultural, religious, ethnic, and racial issues that are best approached through a caring community. 

Large urban communities such as Los Angeles County, and smaller rural areas such as San Luis Obispo County, experience changing demographics, social pressures and even school violence. Our school and community leaders are meeting regularly to discuss the needs, perspectives and challenges all of the individuals we serve possess. How do we collectively address the needs of everyone and build up our entire community? School and community violence across the United States continues to be a topic of my monthly Superintendent’s Council meetings. The council has included school leadership, law enforcement, mental health professionals and social services in these regular discussions. The county has hosted two well-attended Building Community Summits and is planning two more for this academic year. 

The goal of our summits is to facilitate multi-agency communication and collaboration, present positive strategies for community engagement and to build up the county. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, local students, parents, nonprofit agencies, religious leaders, city and county government officials, school leaders, elected officials, and law enforcement are all participating in a Department of Justice grant designed to reduce school violence and build community. Sheriff Ian Parkinson stated in his opening comments that “We can address our issues proactively, one relationship at a time.” 

Because of the Sheriff’s efforts, along with the Office of Emergency Services, San Luis Obispo County is one of the first counties in the state to digitally map every school campus and better connect the community. Research indicates that community capacity to prevent violence is achieved primarily through the social relations embodied in dense networks of “strong” ties within geographically bounded spaces known as neighborhoods or communities.

Getting through this together, Atascadero

Because research indicates that violence prevention programs structured in ways to build community capacity are the most successful, our ongoing workgroups commit to providing at least one proactive suggestion that might mitigate personal or agency disconnect. The San Luis Obispo County Office of Education, along with the Children’s Services Network, the Sheriff’s Office, the Chief of Probation, and the Family Care Network, is planning ongoing “Building Community Summits.” We invite additional participants. I believe that together we can invest in our future by facilitating multi-agency communications, working collectively, and acknowledging that we are all part of a shared community. It is an honor to serve as your County Superintendent of Schools.