My Comments to the DHS Class of 2017

My Comments to the DHS Class of 2017

It is an honor and a privilege to address such a fine group of young adults this evening. During my visits to the high school and various events over the last couple years, I have had the opportunity to learn more about quite a few of you. I am humbled by your intelligence, your compassion, and your myriad talents. Thank you for contributing so much richness to the Decatur community.

Several weeks ago, I was speaking with some elementary students when the topic of our conversation shifted to you, the seniors, and this graduation ceremony. I asked them what they would share with you tonight if they had the opportunity to do so. Their comments were so great that I followed up with elementary teachers throughout the district asking them to gather comments from their classes as well. What these young students shared was touching, insightful, wise, and inspirational; and not surprisingly, much of it was hilarious. So it is my pleasure to share with you tonight some thoughts from your elementary school peers.

Many of the students shared motivational messages:

  • Be awesome, persevere, and never give up!
  • Be the best you can be!
  • Go to a good or awesome college after you graduate and then get a job that you love!
  • Don’t be a scaredy cat. Take a deep breath and let it all go!
  • Try your best and even more.
  • Go out and see what the world is like. Go and see how awesome and cool it can be.

Many other students shared their young wisdom:

  • Have a positive attitude and be careful not to do things that you shouldn’t do, such as smoking and drinking too much alcohol. 😀 stay safe! I am actually serious, ok?
  • Be happy and/or calm. It will help you concentrate and do well in school.
  • Get a car and then go to college.
  • Stay in school so you can learn more and more.
  • We hope you make a lot of money and share it with people. Keep some of it, though.
  • Be kind and careful.
  • Go into the military.  
  • Don’t talk about anyone’s skin color because we are more than our color.
  • Go get a job, then get your driver’s license so you can get to your job.
  • Always look out for new friends.
  • Be thankful for what you have and don’t steal.
  • Try to get hired, not fired!
  • Wear bug spray and sunscreen everyday! You’ll never be too old for bug spray and sunscreen!
  • Make lots and lots of mistakes. You can learn from mistakes. But if you don’t learn from your mistakes, then it’s just a waste of a good mistake.
  • Be brave at everything you do, but don’t go into dark tunnels. That’s just crazy.

Some of them were quite philosophical:

  • Wherever you are, there will always be somebody with you.
  • Wherever there is a human being, there’s an opportunity for kindness.
  • Remember to be the person you thought you would grow up to be when you were in the 4th grade.

And naturally there were those that were simply sweet thoughts:

  • Be kind to others and treat people how you want to be treated.
  • Be nice to people.
  • Keep smiling.🍌😜😄

Being elementary school students, it was inevitable that there would be some comments that were downright hilarious. So I wrap up my address this evening with those that I found the most humorous:

  • Go to a good college🏤 Get a pet cat🐱,dog 🐶or a pet teacup pig 🐷or a monkey.
  • Listen to your mother because she’ll always be older than you.
  • After you graduate, don’t waste your whole life by being eaten by a snake!
  • Find yourself a good job, like being a spy or throwing newspapers.
  • Don’t be afraid of anything. You know, the Jello Monster might swallow you, but if he does, you can eat your way out. Or you could wait until he poops you out. Either way, you’ll get out of there.
  • When things get tough, don’t be all like, “Ah, man, I can’t do this. This is too hard. Grrr, grrr, grrr!” Be more like, “Yes, I can do this! I believe in myself!” If that doesn’t work, then just pretend that you’re a kitty cat, and everything will be OK!

The vision of the City Schools of Decatur is to build the foundation for all of you to be your best, achieve your dreams, and make the world a better place. I hope we have succeeded in building that foundation for you, and I look forward to hearing about the amazing things you each will do as you branch out from this community to whatever is next on your individual journey. As one of the elementary students put it, “Now you’re an adult; you can change the world!”


Note to CSD Staff re Deputy Superintendent

This afternoon I shared the following note with CSD staff regarding the addition of a Deputy Superintendent position.

From: Dr. David Dude
Date: Wed, Oct 26, 2016 at 4:10 PM
Subject: Posting for Deputy Superintendent
To: CSD Staff

Good afternoon,

I am excited to announce that, with the support of the Board of Education, we will be hiring a Deputy Superintendent to lead and support all teaching and learning efforts in the district. The Deputy Superintendent will serve as the Chief Academic Officer providing leadership, vision, and oversight of the district’s curriculum, instruction, assessment, and student supports. This position will be responsible for the district’s early childhood and K-12 instructional programs across all ages, grade levels, and content areas.

image (2).pngThe decision to add administrative positions at the central office level is not something the Board or I take lightly. We are and have been very careful in our consideration of adding this role. Over at least the last decade, as our student enrollment has grown dramatically, the number of administrators has steadily decreased proportionally to the number of students–currently at half the level it was a decade ago. This is one of many human capital needs in our district, and we have already begun discussions of how we address our other needs as we kick off our 2017-18 budget development season.

After evaluating the needs of the district and working with the staff and community to draft a strategic improvement plan for the district that will build a solid foundation and support our students throughout their journey in City Schools of Decatur and beyond, I decided it was important to hire a Deputy Superintendent to help lead these efforts. Adding this position will improve the speed and efficiency with which we will be able to address critical needs, including reductions in achievement gaps, improvements in services to students, and implementation of personalized learning plans, to name a few.

The position has been posted on our website ( as well as other recruiting sites. I am prepared for this process to take as long as needed because getting the right person is a higher priority than getting a person who can start immediately. Applications for the position will be accepted over the next several weeks, with a robust interview process to follow. Details on timelines and how interested persons can participate in this important selection process will be shared in the near future.

I have attached an organizational chart showing how this position will fit into our existing structure once the position is filled. If you know someone who would be a great addition to our district, I encourage you to share the posting with him/her.

Thank you for all you do for our district! I am excited by the challenges and opportunities we are facing in serving ALL of #OurKids!


My comments to the DHS Class of 2016

Several folks have asked me to share my comments from graduation last spring. The following are my comments to the Decatur High School graduating class of 2016:

Good evening, seniors. It is a pleasure and an honor to stand here before you this evening. I’d like to take a moment to share some comments before we get to the highlight of the evening–when you get to walk across this stage to be recognized for a significant achievement. Twenty-four years ago I was at my high school commencement ceremony; sitting on a football field much like this, under the blazing Arizona sun, watching thunderclouds in the distance and wondering if we would make it through the ceremony without getting drenched by a monsoon. It was over 100 degrees that day–but of course it was a “dry heat”…much like an oven. I can’t say I remember everything that was said at the ceremony, but I do remember that most people talked too long and that it takes a long time to read almost 700 names. So I’ll try to be brief.

I hope being graduated from this fine institution is but one of many, many achievements you earn in your life. Achievements like this do not come easily. They are the result of diligent effort, persistence, and long-term focus. As you move into the next stage of your life, I encourage you to seek out challenges and opportunities, to take calculated risks, and to push yourself toward greatness. I took a risk when I chose the college I would attend after high school. I visited Cornell College in the spring of my senior year, having never been to Iowa before. I flew from Phoenix, Arizona, to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wearing my customary shorts and t-shirt. When I reached Iowa–in the spring, remember–it was windy, below freezing, and snowing…and the airline had lost my luggage. I had to walk around the dorm begging for pants and a sweatshirt. Naturally, I fell in love with the place and called my mom that night to let her know I had found my college.

That fall I moved 1,500 miles away to a place I had only visited once. I didn’t know a single person and had little idea what I was getting myself into. I faced many difficulties, and you will as well. Stay focused on your long-term vision for your life. Pursue endeavors that feed your soul and move you toward your goals, but understand that others may not always agree with your course; and that’s okay. You should have seen the looks on the faces of our loved ones when last fall my wife and I shared that our family was moving to Georgia. Many folks tried to talk us out of that decision. But despite the opposition, we had to set our own course.

Your approaches and ideas may come under attack from those who are critical of what you are doing. Listen to your critics and learn from them, but always set your own course.

I’m reminded of a message delivered by Theodore Roosevelt to the University of Paris back in 1910, shortly after completing his second term as President of the United States. He said,

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I remind myself of President Roosevelt’s comments frequently and have embraced this approach to life. Like everyone, I have made mistakes along my journey. I have been the target of criticism. I learn from my mistakes, listen to my critics, and move on as a stronger and wiser person; and I encourage you to do so as well.

President Roosevelt understood leadership. He understood the difficulties in accomplishing great things. I encourage you to ask yourself these questions. Are you going to be a doer, or a watcher? Are you going to attempt to achieve greatness or are you going to criticize those that do? Are you going to be one who strives valiantly or a timid soul who knows neither victory nor defeat?

You leave our school district with a strong foundation. Use that foundation to pursue your dreams, take risks, and achieve greatness. Thank you.


Welcome to my new blog! I often have thoughts to share that don’t fit within the confines of a Facebook post or a tweet, so I’m going to give a blog a go. I don’t have plans to post on a regular schedule at this time, so I will try to remember to share on Facebook and Twitter when new posts are available. I hope y’all find what I share to be helpful and informative!