Ron Jackson: Dream big, but expect criticism

April 6, 2019

Good, sound advice never gets old or goes out of style. Get plenty of sleep; eat a well-balanced meal; exercise; work hard; study harder; and be kind to your neighbor are just a few of the tried and true rules to live by that stand the test of time. Following those guidelines does not guarantee you will always achieve every lofty goal you set, but they will give you a better chance than those that do not.

On rare occasions, though, it does happen.

When the local boy grows up to reach the top of his field while playing for his home team, the entire community celebrates. Or at least it should. We more often observe that phenomenon more easily in the sports world.

Lebron James and Derrick Rose quickly come to mind. Both were given the chance to play for their childhood hometown teams and both, for a short period, were in the upper tiers of talent in their profession. It also happen in other industries. And it can happen for girls, too.

Go to school; work hard; chase your dream; go back to school; be patient; and one day you, too, might be president — even if you are a girl. That was the advice given to a young local girl who patiently followed the rules for decades and ultimately realized a dream come true. That young girl now is at the top of her field in her hometown.

Kankakee School District 111 Superintendent Genevra Walters is living her dream. After two decades in social work and education, she reached the pinnacle of success and in her hometown at that. Her story is one that can be used to show today’s young girls that you still can achieve whatever you dream if you are willing to accept the challenges and be prepared to reap the rewards that come with it.

By her own account, Walters is doing well. She enjoys the challenges of public school administration while remaining a social worker at heart. While she says she has approval from her boss, the Kankakee School District 111 Board of Education, her ultimate priority and reward is providing a growing opportunity for every student in her district. She believes she is doing that and feels she has been compensated fairly. Her goal is to continue her mission locally, well into the foreseeable future.

One would think there would be a loud roar of appreciation. But, like in any field, once you get to the top, you are more visible to everyone; and everyone isn’t always pushing for you to stay there. As one of the top wage earners in our region, she has her detractors. Being a public servant, everyone thinks they pay her salary. If every paid public servant had the proverbial nickel for every time they heard that, they wouldn’t need a pension.

Similar to professional athletes, the salaries of public officials are readily available to the public. And, as with professional athletes, a certain segment of society feels it has the right to give ongoing performance and salary criticism of public officials.

Walters has reached that level of criticism. It comes with the territory. Similar to the professional athlete whose performance is under constant public scrutiny but has one boss, Walters is accountable to her boss.

However, it is her boss who is directly accountable to the public. Too many of those who believe they pay the salary of a public school administrator are the very same too many who fail to exercise their authority every two years to elect a representative body to oversee the top school boss. Tuesday’s abysmal voter turnout bears this out.

If there is a young girl under your influence who has a dream, tell her it can happen right here in her hometown. She can rise to the top, get the big chair, expect to be compensated fairly and reap all the undo criticism that comes with it.

One other piece of advice, tell her to develop a tough skin in order to deal with all those who will constantly and foolishly remind her that she is making too much money.

Who in tarnation really believes there is such a thing as honestly earning too much money? It could be only those who never will.