Thoughts on the Almira School Fire: Loss, Language, and Leadership

David Morrill, Communications & Technology Director, AWSP
Oct 15, 2021


Almira School District

In the middle of National Principals Month and an ongoing pandemic, Almira Principal Kelsey Hoppe's job just got a lot tougher. Earlier this week, we heard the somber news from the town of Almira, where their school recently burned to the ground. Home to about 300 residents, this farming community’s school served 118 K–8 students. We don’t need to tell you the importance of school within a community, especially a small community like Almira where many of the students are the 3rd, 4th, 5th, or 6th generation family members to have attended the school. It’s just hard to fathom that kind of loss.

While thinking about the fire, it caused me to reflect on some conversations we’ve had in our office about the power of language, and specifically, school leader versus building leader. Imagine these two sentences on their own:

  • The entire school was destroyed.
  • The entire building was destroyed.

It’s pretty easy to take for granted the words we use every day, and it’s pretty obvious which sentence carries more emotional weight. A building could be a school, an old warehouse, or a shed. The term on its own carries very little emotional weight. That's we try and use school leader more than building leader here at AWSP. After all, you don’t lead a building, you lead the people in it. That said, it’s not just the people that make up a school, but it’s the artifacts of history, heritage, culture, and learning: the trophies, the signs and posters on the walls and in the classrooms, sports equipment, books, instruments, and the memorabilia that tells the story of the school (past, present, and future).

At a time when communities are fighting about seemingly everything related to school, it’s important to remember how vital schools are to communities. That’s why your language and leadership matter. And speaking of language and leadership, you can send messages of support to Almira through their Facebook page or through Twitter with the hashtags #Almira and #WarriorStrong. If you’d like to donate, you can do so through the Columbia Basin Foundation or find some teachers' Amazon wish lists on the Almira Facebook page.

  • Almira
  • leadership
  • language
  • community
  • Hopeful and Inspiring
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