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Over a recent weekend, my wife and I took our boys to an art museum. There, we happened upon the paintings of Rene Magritte, a Belgian surrealist painter.

He’s well known for this painting:


 However, it was this one that really stuck out to me:

Peter 2

In fact, I kept going back to it in the gallery (to the chagrin of my family who only wanted to go get something to eat). It’s a self portrait of Magritte looking at an egg while at the same time, he’s painting a bird in full flight. Nothing better could represent what each of us does as parents or spouses or neighbors or, in my work, what we aspire to do as a school district:

We CHOOSE to look at something NOT for what it is, but rather what it COULD be.

We do this with children who can’t last 15 minutes in a classroom because they’ve been told they are going to foster care in St. Louis only to be told that now they are going to stay in Columbia, but not at their school — a different one. I have witnessed principals choose to hold onto that struggling child because their school is the only consistency that child has in this world. And even though the child threatens and swings and defies, we know why he or she is angry … and scared. And so, we empathize (not pity) and choose to give her a safe and caring community.

We do this when we hear that a homeless shelter is moving across the street from our school. Our most fragile citizens are in need of the most basic need, and so we rally to inform and transform the surrounding community to embrace these individuals.

We do this when we talk about enrichment and opportunity gaps. Our free lunch students achieve at significantly lower levels than their more affluent peers. How can we make sure they have access?

Magritte is attributed with this quote: “To be a surrealist means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen and being always on the lookout for what has never been.”

I love the Columbia Public Schools because we see what is, and we aspire to see something different. And I so admire our business community, our faith-based community, our nonprofit community and our individual citizens for holding onto a similar ethos.

This week, let’s all inch closer to the edge of our respective nests, take a courageous breath, spread our wings and fly…together!

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