Community Perspective: The Elephant Takes Off

A contributed perspectives piece by James Sattva

July 11, 2022, will be remembered as an auspicious day in the annals of the Rockingham County School Board and its employees. We could not not have imagined beforehand the calm, civil nature of the meeting we were to experience that evening. The attendees and Board Members were blessed with a reprieve from the hysteria and glassy-eyed malevolence to which we have become accustomed in those gatherings since February of 2021.  The July 11 meeting was, by contrast, a delight.  

Those who attend (or stream) RCPS board meetings regularly might agree that it was the first functional one on record in 17 months.  The absence of vitriol and irrelevancy was almost eerie and alien when the meeting was called to order. Then, as the meeting progressed, I settled into my seat as if an anxiety ridden and bouncy take-off had leveled out and I was settling into a window seat on a south-bound flight, enjoying the unexpected normality of the engines’ white noise, and the inspiring urge to fill my notebook with all I was witnessing.

  1. The calm presentation of simple facts about the rights of kids going through transition.
  2. An equally calm, objective and intelligent presentation of data recently reported by the Trevor Foundation about how supportive adults and environments, while critical in the lives of everyone, are a matter of life or death particularly for LGBTQ2s children and youth.
  3. A harmless misinformed Grandma, with the indignance of a town drunk trying to bum a light in church, accusing the school board of implementing “unsuccessful” distance learning strategies for summer school students.  Then, there was the added charm of enthusiastic applause from exactly two other people who sat next to her.
  4. An actual concerned parent appealing to the board for help in transporting band gear for competitions, a task in which he has been regularly and dutifully involved for years on a volunteer basis.
  5. The Sheriff, confident and convincing, made it clear that, underneath the ridiculous mayhem we have all endured for months, the majority of our local elected officials from both parties are reasonably sane and have worked hard to make sure they fulfilled the expectations inherent in their office.  
  6. Board Members, clearly relaxed to a degree I have never witnessed before, sharing a genuine delight during reports of RCPS students excelling and succeeding – like, REAL delight in REAL accomplishments…
  7. The comforting sense of menial yet necessary work being attended to. The bored assurance that the ocean is immeasurably more calm than it is treacherous – even through the worst of storms ravaging the surface.

I kid y’all not – it was miraculous.  It felt as if a sweaty pachyderm known for sucking all the oxygen out of the room had suddenly vanished, restoring the air and leaving space for people to live with each other and work together unmolested by the constant threat of suffocation and heat stroke. 

James Sattva is a a teacher, unionist, musician and freelance writer who lives in McGaheysville.

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