By Ben Small, Central Valley School District Superintendent & LaunchNW Executive Director
“Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” – Brené Brown
As I think about integrity, this quote is what in essence it means to me. Having a sense of purpose that you believe in is integral to live your values in a way that benefits not only your own tribe of people, but your surrounding community as well. Angela Duckworth states, “At its core, the idea of purpose is the idea that what we do matters to people other than ourselves.” Integrity is very much aligned with your core values and your purpose. This purpose is both what drives me and inspires me. It reminds me of how being in the right place at the right time – guided by the right values – is what helps us fulfill our calling in life.
What I am most proud of during my time at Central Valley is the relationships we built between the school district and community. Things that at first seemed small, like working to start Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE), which has grown and continues to be a vital program to celebrate students of character, not only in CVSD, but also in the school districts and communities across our region. PACE is built on solid community partnerships – one relationship at a time – with integrity is its foundation.
Our Central Valley community has undeniably been in a time of change and rebuilding relationships and social connections are what will get us through. I know that the last couple of years have been a struggle for everyone, but it is this true sense of purpose that keeps us going along our path—a path with students always at the forefront. Brené Brown reminds us, “Whatever you choose for a path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.” I believe it is important to focus on the bright spots in both my personal and professional life. This doesn’t mean that you ignore problems and challenges, but it does mean that the way you work through them is to capture what is right and build on it with integrity.
While change can create uncertainty and may cause us to be uncomfortable, it can also be a time of growth—an opportunity to better serve our community. I believe through my role at CVSD, and my new role into the future, we will continue to create a better community through education. In fact, with this as my own personal core value, I would put this message on a giant billboard for all to see: “Education for a better community.”
This is where my new role comes in. As I retire from CVSD, I am embarking on another mission that will benefit the students and families of our region for generations to come. As I join Innovia Foundation to start a new non-profit, LaunchNW, I take this core value and purpose with me to continue this important work in our community. LaunchNW mobilizes our community around the goal of every student graduating high school and having the preparation and support needed to attain the career or college education of their choice. Imagine if an entire community came together to ensure that every child has the opportunity – and support – to access their career or college of choice.
Choosing courage over comfort, I want to make a difference in the community in which my children live and learn. I also want to remove barriers to educational attainment and success for students in our community. Kids just like I once was. I want to pay forward the support that was given to me as a young child through my teachers, principal and caring community.
I am proud of what we have accomplished together, not only in CVSD, but also in our region. I am proud, but not satisfied. Together, we have accomplished much and we have so much more to accomplish. I look forward to working with our community through LaunchNW to continue this work together to make a better community through education. As Simon Sinek says, “Together is better.” I live by these words—with integrity as my guide.
Biography: Ben Small is an active, contributing member of the greater Spokane Valley community—serving as CVSD Superintendent, where he’ll retire this month after 14 dedicated years. He’s a collaborative leader who strives to develop a common purpose for the community in which he lives. In this fashion, he is also a founder of Partners Advancing Character Education (PACE), established in 2010. Small is the past Chair of the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce and was named the 2019 Harry E. Nelson Citizen of the Year. He currently volunteers for WSU, Providence, United Way, GSI, Sunrise Rotary Club, and the Workforce Development Council. Small recently joined forces with Innovia Foundation as the inaugural executive director of the start-up non-profit, LaunchNW.
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