What Tyler school Superintendent Marty Crawford's annual State of the District speech last week showed, more than anything else, was the level of commitment this community has to its schools.
As Crawford pointed out, "The district's relationship with local higher education institutions is phenomenal and second to none." But that's also true for city leaders, the business community and charitable agencies.
Two particular programs come to mind as great examples of how the Tyler community has come together to support our schools.
The first is the "School is Cool" event held by the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce. This year, it was held in August a week before school started.
Christi Khalaf, executive director of the Tyler Area Business Education Council, said this year's event at Harvey Convention Center eclipsed last year's sizable crowd.
Her team prepared for at least 5,000 people, offering them school supplies, haircuts, dental screenings, immunizations and more. But they surpassed even that goal, with dozens of agencies and volunteers on hand, helping families to get ready for school.
What's significant about the event is that it's entirely community-driven. It's clear evidence that Tyler residents care about the public school system, and are willing to provide Tyler kids with what they need to succeed in our schools.
Another program worthy of pointing out is the Rose City Summer Camps program.
Rose City Summer Camps, along with Gospel Village and The Boys & Girls Club of East Texas are programs and ministries of the Mentoring Alliance, which, according to the program's mission, aims to mobilize godly people into the lives of kids and families while also providing tangible help and eternal hope.
Here's what one parent has to say about the Summer Camps: "Last year we juggled Samantha between friends, family, babysitters, and she even stayed at the house alone sometimes while we were at work. This summer has been much smoother with Rose City Summer Camps."
The camps last from June through August, and the cost is reasonable - there are even scholarships for families who need them.
What's important here is that the camps, like Gospel Village and other programs, truly are about coming alongside the schools and assisting in their task.
It's indicative of how Tyler residents have come to feel about their schools. There have been times in the past when poor management and communication have put distance between the community and the district. Bond issues failed because Tyler voters simply didn't trust the district. That has changed.
Perhaps state Sen. Kevin Eltife, honored at the State of the District luncheon, put it best: "I am Tyler public schools."
He explained that his father died when he was an infant, and his widowed mother raised him and his siblings alone - yet with the help of many concerned and caring teachers and administrators within the school district. He represents the best of what a quality education can add to a life.
"I could not have become who I am without Tyler public schools," he said.
The state of the Tyler Independent School District is strong, because the community stands with it.