GRAVES: City-school library talks continue tradition of cooperationIf one has built a strong relationship with another person or agency or whatever, issues are typically easy to resolve.
By: Joe Graves, Mitchell Superintendent
A few years ago, while discussing one perplexing political issue or another, then president of MTI Chris Paustian explained that reason and logic would take us only so far in resolving the matter because “the issue isn’t the issue; the issue is the state of the relationship.”
It is one of those bits of sage advice that I find myself recalling to memory on many occasions. If one has built a strong relationship with another person or agency or whatever, issues are typically easy to resolve. Additionally, that same foundation can be the support for developing so much more.
One means of building such relationships, I have noted over the years, is as simple as knowing someone’s name. Knowing a name, as with Adam’s naming the beasts of the world, is an instant and fairly permanent way to build a relationship with them.
Alas, this gift or talent for remembering names is not one that I enjoy. I am consistently mortified when approached by people because my batting average for being able to call to mind their name out of the blue, as the mathematicians say, approaches .000. (I was once asked in a testing situation to give my mother’s first name and, due to the stress, for several seconds all I could come up with was “Mom.”) And people don’t like it when you can’t recall their name. It is a sign, in most people’s minds, that you don’t care, that they are not important to you.
But the truth is I do care and I do my level best to remember names. When I was a principal or superintendent in a relatively small school, I could usually manage to learn all the students’ names though doing so meant utilizing every memory trick in the book. I had to associate their name with some distinctive feature about them or about some other person with the same name. Certain names I can learn quickly. Some time ago, I met an elementary student with the first name Gracie. Being a fan of the comedy team Burns & Allen, I solidified her name in my memory by associating her with Gracie Allen. So whenever I see her, I think “well, there’s Mitchell’s own Gracie Allen,” that extraordinarily clever comedienne who reduced George Burns to speechlessness by always making him the straight man.
George: “So Gracie, where did you get the beautiful flowers?”
Gracie: “Why, from visiting my friend in the hospital.”
George: “Gracie, I don’t understand, how did you get flowers from visiting a friend in the hospital?”
Gracie: “Well, George, it was your idea. You told me when I visited my friend in the hospital, I should take her flowers.”
And what both the ability to recall someone’s name and the example provided by the unfortunately rare (in Hollywood) long-lasting marriage of Burns & Allen (’til death did them part) prove is the value of a solid relationship.
But it isn’t just people who engage in fruitful, satisfactory relationships. Mitchell, in fact, has an exceptional example of a partnership between the Mitchell School District and the city of Mitchell which people routinely take for granted even though it is much rarer than you think. In the joint-use agreement between city and school, the facilities of both entities are available to the other at no cost and on a regular basis whenever not in use by the actual owner. As a result, Mitchell High School holds commencement not in some gymnasium but in the Corn Palace. Our basketball teams do likewise, providing, as one prominent Mitchell businessman recently noted, some of the best PR the Corn Palace has had in years, on the backs of our girls’ basketball T-shirts which proudly proclaimed to other teams, “Nice gym. Have you seen our palace?”
The city, meanwhile, uses our gyms, our track, and myriad other facilities for Park & Rec and other activities. When the city decided to build top-of-the-line soccer fields, the district kicked in dollars toward their construction. When the school built Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary, the city assisted with contributions stretching over two decades. When the city wanted to build softball and baseball diamonds as well as soccer fields, the district donated the many in-town acres north and west of the middle school.
Thus, it should come as no surprise that when the city is searching for a new City Hall and is considering occupying the current public library at the same time that the district is opening up the soon-to-be former north campus of MTI that such partners should consider a joint city-high school library. Doing so would save both entities money, provide a better collection for students and residents alike, and even extend library hours beyond the time now available to both. No doubt such a proposal also has its disadvantages, including renovation costs, differing laws and regulations applying to school and public libraries, and possible time constraints.
So, over the coming weeks and months, I would expect this proposal, among many others, to be carefully considered, the benefits and drawbacks weighed in the scales. And the beauty of such a process is that because of the partnership between the city and school district, one seasoned and aged by decades of successful cooperation, there will be a real promise of success in going forward with such a proposal and also a sincere and well-intentioned “perhaps next time” in deciding not to.