by Luke Francois, Ed.D.

I grew up in a family where my father was a rough carpenter, and then later, a finish carpenter.  My mother grew up in a family landscaping business which afforded me a 40 hour per week job pulling weeds in beds at age 12.  After working in a nursery for six years, I was promoted to sod foreman.  Some might argue that a sod foreman is a demotion as daily one throws down, lays in place, and cuts to fit using a sod knife a semi load or more of sod (18 pallets each with 65 rolls of sod).  Upon graduating from sod foreman, I moved to a landscape foreman, completing both residential and commercial sites from beginning to end.  Our family always heated with wood, so on the weekends, we cut, split, and stacked wood, and then threw chunks down in the basement, re-stacked, burned, and finally removed the ashes.

I fear I may have recently taken for granted there would always be an abundance of people that grew up in a family similar to ours–experienced in hard work and specialized in a certain craft they learned to do well.  My taking for granted began when a Mineral Point area native, and a neighborhood friend, Tom Carey, was in our backyard.  I shared how there was no shade and the yard was always hot, to which he replied, “You should add a loggia.”  In my head, I was thinking, “What is a loggia?”  Not wanting to appear uninformed, I said nothing, and we went our ways.  After Tom departed, I quickly Googled loggia to learn it is an open-sided extension to a home.  I smiled inside and wondered why he didn’t just say a lean-to as that would have been speaking both of our languages.

As the lean-to project neared completion, I realized how fortunate I was to find a good contractor.  It is rare to find a person that works hard from morning to night, rarely stopping to eat; a person that pays close attention to detail and makes sure every opportunity to keep water from undermining the project years down the road is seized; a person that works with selected subcontractors that have high expectations and best practices in electrical and masonry; a person that holds roofers accountable for proper flashing and ensures work is completed timely.

Those that work in the trades have my full respect as the work is specialized, needed, and valuable. There is clearly a shortage of persons in the building and masonry trades, trades that pay well for a hard day’s work.  Attempts to contact reliable contractors found availability, but often only if we were willing to wait more than nine weeks out.  

I fear today’s schools put too much emphasis on college readiness.  As Superintendent, Mineral Point Schools will keep in the forefront the idea that preparing students for careers is equally as important as preparing students for college.