Darrell Ehrlick: Yes for Billings

2013-11-17T00:00:00Z 2014-03-21T10:34:19Z Darrell Ehrlick: Yes for BillingsBy DARRELL EHRLICK The Billings Gazette
November 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Everybody has a hometown.

But not every person wants to return to his or hers. The more gray that appears in my very limited hair, the more I am beginning to realize that in this transient world, fewer people are tied to hometowns and even fewer want to go back.

But, I am lucky on both counts.

This isn’t a column on newspapering or some public records fight we’re waging down here from the corner of North Broadway. Instead, it’s a thank-you note.

Billings: Thank you for supporting the $122 million school construction bond issue most recently.

Whether you voted for the bond or not, I appreciate collectively this community is standing behind public education, recognizing that great schools are the building blocks of fantastic communities.

There’s another reason I need to say thanks, though.

Thank you because I was the beneficiary of a great education received in the Billings Public Schools system. And though it probably pains some teachers who have to wistfully admit that at one time I was their mouthy, defiant student, my education served me well in college, graduate school and finally into a career that I love. Like all of us when we were kids, I had no idea that those around me had to stretch dollars and sacrifice to make my education happen.

Now that sacrifice becomes a bit more real as my two children are just several years away from themselves becoming students in the school district.

Thank you for helping to provide the same excellent facilities and dedicated teachers that I had. I hope they have the same kind of tremendous experiences that grounded me so well. I wish that they could take Nancy Simmons’ literature course and discover Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald or William Faulkner like I did. And they’ll probably never have to write the definition of self discipline over and over again when they get in trouble, just like I did dozens — OK, hundreds — of times in Ruth Ronning’s fourth-grade class. (For the record, the definition of self discipline is “training and control of one’s self and one’s conduct always for personal improvement.”)

Billings, thanks for supporting the schools and the bond because it wasn’t always like this. I remember school district squabbles and political battles which tended to polarize the community when I was growing up. Like all politics, some of that bickering soured residents and we weren’t always so supportive of the schools. You don’t have to go back decades to find acrimony and distrust between the district and the community. Thankfully, those torched bridges seem to have been rebuilt, and the focus has noticeably shifted from the sins of the past to the promise of the district’s future.

What may be even more exciting is that this particular vote, coupled along with a vote supporting the public library, seems to represent a change in the way Billings sees itself. I hope this bond issue goes beyond simply supporting the schools. I have to believe that Billings’ support of the schools is a recognition that our town — now a city — continues to add folks, create jobs and offer new opportunities simply unavailable in the Billings of yesteryear. I am hopeful that our great community has recognized that we have to continue to invest in order for other newcomers to invest in us.

In this one vote, Billings didn’t just say yes to kids. It said yes to itself.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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