Jim Lemmon’s Goal to Inspire Excellence
I remember some of the feelings teachers face each new year as they walk into the classroom facing a room full of eager and anxious students. I previously taught geology and geography as adjunct faculty at the college level for many years. Today I am fortunate to mentor and help train college interns and Engineers in Training during my professional job as a Registered Geologist with the Arizona Department of Transportation. I get to work with a variety of teams consisting of technical professionals on defining, designing and then implementing remedies for geologic hazards (think landslides and rock falls) impacting the roads throughout our beautiful state.
Our job as Governing Board Members is to articulate the vision, policy, culture and direction we as a community want our public schools to best serve the children of our District. We need to remember that it is all the children we operate the schools for, not just our employees and for the convenience of some of the families. Our Tempe Elementary School District is very diverse with families from over 70 different countries speaking 75 different foreign languages at home, along with hundreds of children whose parents are recognized members of more than 50 different Native American Tribes. We in Tempe celebrate and embrace that cultural and ethnic diversity and challenge ourselves to do more with equity and providing opportunity for all our students regardless of their families’ national origin, religion or culture.
However, amidst that broad cultural diversity over two thirds of our students come from families with very modest financial means: consequently, by leveraging Federal, local and private resources we serve over 7,000 breakfasts and 11,000 lunches to hungry children each day so that they will be ready and capable to learn. Additionally, for over 16 years I have been a strong vocal advocate of having licensed nurses at each of our schools, along with counselors, librarians, art, music and PE teachers to help all children achieve academically, artistically and acquire healthy lifestyles choices. I have consistently supported continuing regular professional development for our teachers and pay increases as they acquired more college credits beyond their bachelor’s degree.
I know that not all the children leave the Tempe Elementary School District being College and Career Ready. To fix that requires continued dedication each day by our administrators and teachers as they measure, define, design and implement plans at all our schools to achieve excellence with every student they have in their charge. We can and must continue to do more to make sure all students are at grade level and acquire at least a year’s academic growth at every school every year. I am proud of what we have accomplished during my time on the Governing Board and I am confident we will continue to strive to inspire academic excellence while maintaining a safe, secure and inviting school environment for all students and their families.