Friday

"the school that changes lives"

Update:
By surprise, this piece was later published on page 10 of SBMS's first newsletter
of the 2009/2010 academic school year. A complete surprise that felt like an honor:
http://www.sbms.org/01students/newsletter.html



“A great leader's courage to fulfill his vision comes from passion, not position.”

Upon hearing news of tremendous change taking place in the school I hold so dear to my heart, I found varying emotions rocking my soul. Shock, dismay, surprise, understanding, and overwhelming delight came over me. Twice, I asked my source of information to rewind, repeat, and take it into slow-motion. Finally, swallowing it all down with a big gulp of oxygen, I found acceptance for all the news, knowing even the heartbreaks are just part of the forward pedaling motion Santa Barbara Middle School is celebrated for.

First, I must admit how often my thoughts trace back to my days on the bike; undoubtedly more than the average mind wandering back to pubescent junior high. If I’m not day dreaming about the friendships gained, and lessons learned, then I often find myself acting as storyteller, riding an outsider up Figueroa Mountain on my handlebars, or painting a front row picture of a breathtaking Death Valley sunrise. In the days following this pivotal news however, I found myself with different thoughts.

Although the changes taking place are riveting and diverse, my mind’s focus couldn’t escape the most surprising of all the news. Brian McWilliams, the man who clicked me into live-web interaction with students in Tibet, who taught me how to make my very own movie, my 9th grade Novus teacher, my friend… has been chosen to step into a role of great proportions. Leadership, yes. Decision making, yes. But as any person whose heart is blue, yellow, and shaped as a diamond knows, Brian is approaching a seat still warm from the chain of legends who have occupied it. We all know the names and stories of the headmasters who have moved, touched, and inspired so many of us; and Brian does too.

I believe most of us were surprised at the news, but never doubtful. Why the shock? Because the Brian I know would never campaign for the role. As a matter of fact, he never appeared on my imagined headmaster line-up. While his capability was never questioned, he was off my headmaster-radar because of who I believe he is in the SBMS community. Brian’s success as a teacher, while academically effective, truly thrives in his effortless friendship with the students. He belongs in the Novus classroom, he belongs at the beach for Friday electives, Brian belongs next to the students, not in front or behind them. Because Brian loves what he does, I never entertained idea of his place in our community changing. And (sigh of relief)… it’s not. After speaking with Brian about the news, I sincerely understand that while this might be a change in our school’s structure, it is ultimately just a supplement to his life at Santa Barbara Middle School.

Occasionally sharing a beachside laugh with him and his wife, my friendship with Brian has only grown since my days in his classroom. Philosophy, ocean swells, and of course always keeping up on life, I have never felt a disconnect in our honesty with each other. Before we spoke, I feared a silence in my voice, as his title is now composed of authority (and as many know, I don’t do well with authority). Contrary to my fear, Brian is still Brian: brilliantly easy to talk to. I expressed my joy and excitement, as well as my concern for the challenges that will surface. He added to my feelings of delight, and agreed that tasks will emerge that may look as daunting as Yukkity Yuk Yuk, Mighty Might, or even Gibraltar Road. As a former student who cried at the bottom of those steep, outrageous looking trails, I know that conquering a mountain is possible one pedal at a time …and he is just the man to take the snout, leading us to the top.

Ingenious, insightful, and truly open to opinion, Brian is more than just our next headmaster, he is our community's new voice; wholeheartedly representing faculty, parents, and students of the past, present, and future. When I think of "the school that changes lives," I recognize SBMS as successfully continuing to evolve, while never losing sight of where it came from. As I have always been, I am supremely confident in Brian's dedication to OUR school, the tradition we honor, and the growth we welcome. As an eternal devotee, and formal alumna, I'm supremely proud of the choice that has been made in naming Brian McWilliams as the Interim Head of School for OUR Santa Barbara Middle School.

Alexandra Frost
Alumna

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