Who cares? You have to wonder when you meet and experience so many people who don't seem to care. You question whether digital connections have replaced human connections and ask if busyness and stress have caused us to forget to care about the people and things we are supposed to care about.
But then you meet someone who cares and it gives you hope. You witness how one person who cares inspires others to care. You meet a community that has prospered because a leader has chosen to go above and beyond.
Now when I hear the words, Who cares? I say, "Dr. Drew Watkins, that's who."
While speaking to the educators of Prosper, ISD in Texas last week I met their Superintendent, Drew Watkins for the first time. I found out from his staff that he writes a personal note of congratulations to every graduating senior. They mentioned it casually in conversation as if it was no big deal but I quickly stopped in my tracks.
"How many graduates do you have this year?" I asked.
"403," they said. "He started doing it when we had just 80 graduates in the district and keeps doing it year after year no matter how much we grow."
I asked how he learns about each student. "Does he get a report from the teachers in order to write the notes?"
"No," they said. "He actually knows them. He personally knows every student in the district. He’s in the schools all the time, not his office."
It was clear that he loves the students and they love him back as you can see from this big hug he received from a big graduate. : )
When Dr. Watkins and I had some time to chat I asked what he's going to do when he has 1,000 graduates. He told me he was going to keep doing it. "The day I stop is the day I need to stop doing this job," he said. "The crime is not that the passion has run out. It's that you stuck around after it has."
Dr. Watkins is, in no way, just sticking around. I found out that in addition to writing notes to graduates he also sends each student in Prosper ISD a note on their birthday. He can often be seen opening car doors and greeting students in the car line each morning before school. Sometimes he leaves messages of encouragement on whiteboards in the classrooms while the teachers and students are at lunch. And every Monday morning he sends all the educators and staff in the district an email with words of wisdom, encouragement, and praise.
The other day I posted a comment on Facebook about meeting Dr. Watkins and the comments flooded in.
A former student wrote:
I knew him since I was a kid in pre-k. He sat down with me at lunch one day my junior year in high school and asked, "Still don't like the crust?" meaning my sandwich which I had torn the crust off from. For him to remember that I didn't like the crust all this time still amazes me. I'm grateful to have had him for a superintendent, couldn't have asked for a better one.
A few moms wrote:
"I'll never forget when my children were in Kindergarten. They came home talking about a "man" that sat with them at lunch. Puzzled, I was like "What man??!" They quickly responded "Mr. Watkins." I was impressed 6 yrs ago and have continued to be, as I see him opening car doors, greeting the kids in car line... sometimes in the pouring rain."
- "He opened the car door for my son Jacob on his first day of kindergarten and on his last day of his senior year and he remembered!! Made me cry like a baby."
A few teachers from Prosper ISD wrote:
I also had someone from another part of the country say. "Wow that is amazing. I was 2nd in my class and I don't think the principal knew my name." Countless others wrote "what a great servant leader" and "this is how it should be" and "can we clone him" and "we need more leaders like this."
The overwhelming flood of responses shows how much we appreciate a leader who cares and how we long for leaders to care. I left Prosper ISD inspired by Drew Watkins to do more to show that I care. I hope after reading this you feel the same way. Drew Watkins is a great model for all of us. We can all care more, give more and do more to make a difference.
We may not rise to the level of caring of a Drew Watkins but we can strive to be more like him. We can all work to invest in relationships and find ways to show people that we care about them.
So when you hear the words "Who cares?" You can say, "I do, that's who."
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