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Opinion: Thanks, Ortiz. Why we should champion servant-leadership in education

Bad educators dictate, great ones inspire

The date was August 8, 2014. On this day I was walking through my freshman registration at Mission Vista High School (MVHS), which is part of the Vista Unified School District (VUSD). Eventually, I ran into an ASB member, who informed me there was a new ASB Director. I was not too keen on meeting this mystery man, but I took the chance.

That decision would come to be the best decision of my life.

Now some historical context: Mission Vista’s ASB experienced a rocky past. Preceding the new Director’s arrival in July 2014, MVHS saw three ASB directors come and go in a five-year span, minimal records were kept, and planned events often times were canceled.

Students worked with what was available, with little success. ASB, for most students, was just a schedule filler. Most importantly, ASB did not have a tangible mission.

By June 2018, nearly all of this had changed for the better. ASB Finance structure was revamped and students were more fiscally aware. This Director popularized the phrase “Be The Change” and it became a movement that galvanized the campus.

ASB attained thousands of dollars of audio and video equipment (through a grant) for both ASB and club use. The “small” magnet school managed to transform formerly bad dances into great ones. Because of these successes, ASB students found purpose in their role.

Many students worked to positively change the school as a whole, myself included, but this Director was always the backbone to these changes. Even if you knew him as the screaming grown man at the majority of school sporting events, you still wouldn’t scratch the surface of his character.

You wouldn’t know how he transformed a quiet kid who rarely spoke into a confident orator fully prepared to serve others and challenge the status quo. In my years of experience with him, he was more than just a teacher; he was a mentor, an ally, and for some students, a father figure.

Unfortunately, current powers at MVHS have shown themselves to be skillful in impeding student-driven progress. Students, however, were never the ones to face the full wrath of this overly-bureaucratic monster.

Cyrus Ortiz-Luis, the Director to which I have referred, took on that responsibility. It continues to amaze me that the faults of these powers can be overlooked.

Vista High recognized Ortiz’s excellent work years ago, when will MVHS? How can one be an educator if they are paralyzed by the thought of speaking to students openly? How can one be a leader who constantly places blame on others? How can one demand respect when deception is their action of choice?

With VUSD facing declining enrollment and year-to-year budget deficits, we can not be serious about keeping up with the advances of charter and private schools when some of our schools are administered by officials whose leadership style is solely oriented for in-classroom results.

Simply maintaining high test scores school wide is not enough, especially in the modern age we live in. We should expect more from our educational leaders, especially this modern age. If a person’s educational outlook is inconsistent with the values of the district, they should not be placed in a position of leadership.

Luckily the aforementioned pseudo-“leadership” is not the type Ortiz taught students. We practiced servant leadership. Servant leadership requires us to be self aware. Servant leadership requires norms to be challenged. Servant leadership demands collaboration from all parties, regardless of title. Servant leadership requires the ability to grow. Servant leadership depends upon placing others before yourself and acknowledging that there is always more that can be done, even beyond the classroom.

At the end of the day, Ortiz is a man who habitually put students first and I am happy he is getting a well-deserved (hopefully temporary) break. However, he also deserves a heartfelt thank you. And with that, I encourage all students to thank the champion educator in their education experience. Allow me to start off:

Thanks Ortiz, rest assured I and many others know what servant-leadership looks like, and have succeeded in life, because of you.

 Nathan Mizell is a 1st year student at the University of California, Berkeley who is studying Political Science. He is a former ASB President at Mission Vista High School and a former student member of the Vista Unified School District’s Board of Education. He currently serves as President for one of UC Berkeley’s Resident Hall Associations.

1 comment

Jessi October 14, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Thank you Ortiz for believing in me and showing me that I have a family to lean on when ever I need to

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