In Praise of Our Hallmark Community Spirit

Posted by Sharonica L. Hardin-Bartley, PhD PHR on 12/19/2022 10:00:00 AM

UCHS 121622 Assembly w Mr Gary, Dr Hardin-Bartley, Dr. Peoples and Golden Girls

Sharonica Hardin-BartleyI have a guilty pleasure this time of the year as our student winter performances wind down and the holiday baking begins. It’s watching Hallmark holiday specials. 

When winter arrives, there is nothing cozier than curling up on my couch with a soft blanket, a cup of tea and my remote in my hand. If it’s snowing outside, that’s even better. The movies are so predictable as the characters face fictitious hardships and come together at the end in community, love and comfort.

I know this guilty pleasure might surprise a few of you. Generally, I’m a complex and driven person with the weight of my role as superintendent on me daily. I have been given great privileges. I understand, to whom much is given, much is required. In my line of work, that means I strive daily for the success of your students in a U.S. public education system that is complicated, often shortsighted and not always inclusive, equitable or loving. The work to change systems in The School District of University City is urgent because I understand that many of you have not been given luxury, power or easy paths as you raise and love your children. The clock is constantly ticking for me, because when it comes to improving the lives of children, time is of the essence.

And yet, winter break is the time of year when I need - I crave - time and simplicity, and even a little escapism. We all need breaks. We need to be well. We need to care for ourselves. 

I go into our winter break appreciative of this time for self care, but also aware that significant downtime and basic comfort may not be easily available to all of you. Please remember, we care. Our community is capable of great love. I am delighted that U. City, once again, rallied for our families whose lives are tough and in no way the script of a holiday show. Donations to the District’s Holiday Appeal organized by our social work team totaled nearly $24,000 in gift cards and other monetary donations that benefitted 102 families and 284 children. Each family also received care baskets with food and other necessities. Our very own University City Fire Department also arrived earlier this month with their annual pile of toys to help lessen the financial burden for designated parents and caregivers. In November, families horribly impacted by flooding this summer were given $400 gift cards thanks to more than $8,000 in donations from our community.

Finally, Mr. Gary Boyd, the crowned host of the television show Them Yo’ People, took our district’s children and families under his wing this month. He used his voice on radio and television to sponsor food, gift and coat drives for our families. He used his connections to surprise our students with a special assembly. And, on Sunday, he held a free holiday celebration for the entire community in the University City High School auditorium. He provided special invitations to families and residents who suffered severe hardship this year during the flooding. There were many happy surprises.

It’s heartwarming. Even with our complexities and challenges, University City has a spirit of community and love. So this winter break, I will sit down to watch my Hallmark holiday movies with the comfort of knowing that U. City, again, came together and had its very own Hallmark moment!  With love and gratitude, I wish you all a wonderful and peaceful holiday break with your loved ones. I will see you in the New Year!