One comment stood out a few weeks ago when I interviewed Patricia Holubec, a high school principal in the small, rural Skidmore-Tynan Independent School District.
A largely Hispanic district in the flatlands of south Texas, Skidmore-Tynan is not wealthy by any means: Sixty-five percent of its students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and many of its graduates must leave the area to find employment in the oil fields or state prisons that ring the district.
When Holubec was named principal of Skidmore-Tynan High School four years ago, she said her biggest challenge was one of attitude: “This thought of, ‘We’ll get by — we’re just Skidmore-Tynan.”
“Just Skidmore-Tynan.” I jumped on that comment to illustrate a big challenge facing rural schools in general, the idea — portrayed in the media, embraced by outsiders, and even internalized by many students themselves — that, in the words of a sociologist I interviewed, “rural equals less than.”
Skidmore-Tynan is one of three districts — one urban, one suburban, and one rural — portrayed in ASBJ’s June cover package, “School Boards Work.” The stories show how even school districts faced with a multitude of challenges (and what district isn’t?) can achieve great things through strong school board leadership.
Speaking of challenges, the idea that “we’re just….” or “we’re less than” can afflict students anywhere, of course, not just in rural areas. It’s the job of school boards, working with dynamic school leaders, to show students wherever they live that they don’t have to settle for second best.
Lawrence Hardy, Senior Editor