Jim Deline has worked in some of Austin’s toughest schools, where many students came from broken homes and parents struggled to keep up with their own bills.
I think it’s that perspective that has made working at Highland Park Elementary, one of the city’s best schools, so rewarding for him. When he arrived in our community six years ago, Jim had become accustomed to using whatever resources the school could provide.
Now, at Highland Park Elementary, Deline and other school leaders are showing how deeply engaged they are with the community around them, producing educational, social and fundraising events that wouldn’t be possible without so many generous parents.
I think it’s one of the finest examples of how our community can quickly pull together and reach common goals.
One of the events that caught my eye recently was the Scottie Olympics. Leading up to the school event in early April I heard that more than 100 volunteers helped make sure the roughly 650 elementary students enjoyed races, education and healthy food. I heard about parents lending vehicles, professional sound systems and donated snacks to make the Scottie Olympics the best ever.
I saw kids wearing eye black, like professional athletes, making their own personal “Scottie Strong” statement. Meanwhile, all those Olympic events gave our 5th graders a chance to practice the coaching skills that Jim has been teaching all year.
I know a lot of schools have Olympic events like this, but I think Highland Park brings it to a new level. And I was surprised to hear that it’s now in its 32nd year. Wow! I couldn’t be happier for them!
But Jim says that the credit belongs to hundreds of people who have pitched in through the years.
“Something like this doesn’t happen without incredible parents,” he said.
But it doesn’t stop there. Highland Park Elementary hosts several unique events, including a huge Halloween carnival that fills the school with haunted areas, cake walks, dunking booths and carnival rides — all in the name of raising money. Everyone pitches in someone, Jim said.
“All these things lend themselves to creating a great community and school for the kids,” Jim said. “We can do things differently because we can count on the parents.”
If there’s one reliable sign of a great neighborhood, I think that it’s how deeply parents are involved in the school system and vice versa. When you see all these parents coming together to bolster their children’s education and the school reaching out to the community and constantly looking for ways to improve and innovate, you have what every parent is looking for in a neighborhood.
Jim said that the generosity extends beyond parents to local businesses as well. For example, he said, Crenshaw Athletic Club lets their students in to experience their gymnastics equipment. And Hat Creek Burger Company is pitching in to feed more than 100 kids participating in a flag football tournament.
“These are the kind of things that say ‘we believe in your school’ and ‘we believe in your community,’” Jim said.
After hearing about all the projects and community input that Jim and his colleagues work on, I simply couldn’t be prouder to say that I believe in our Highland Park Elementary, its students, families and the overall community.
Stay Scottie Strong!