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The outcome of last Monday’s vote to rename the technology building at Rhodes Middle School in honor of Bill Davis— the teacher killed in a car accident on a mission to Uganda this summer—was a foregone conclusion. No one opposed it, and the tribute was more than well-earned.
However, one of the beautiful things about these decisions being made in public is that it gives the chance for testimony and memorial. Things have been tense in San Antonio ISD for the past year, but all could agree on the legacy of Bill Davis.
Davis was an active member of the San Antonio Alliance—he was the representative at Rhodes Middle School, where had had taught for 23 years. I should point out here that schools like Rhodes typically have high teacher turnover. Instead of leaving Rhodes for greener pastures, Alliance President Shelley Potter and Rhodes Principal Moises Ortiz talked about how Davis tried to make the grass greener there, in the heart of the city’s poorest zip code, surrounded by blocks and blocks of government housing.
“Bill epitomized our union, who we are and what we do,” Potter said; he was an advocate for students.
What could have been a tense relationship between principal and union rep was not so at Rhodes, according to Ortiz. He trusted Davis’s judgement, that the things he advocated for were truly student-focused.
“He would not jump on causes if they weren’t in the best interest of our students,” Ortiz said.
In the wake of Davis’s death this summer, Facebook had been filled with tributes from Davis’s students showing all the ways Davis worked in the best interest of his students in little ways throughout his career. On top of those everyday encouragements, however, Davis had also pursued more monumental betterments.
Davis was not able to see the September 21, 2018 rollout of the Verizon Innovative Learning partnership, which provided 1-to-1 mobile devices and two-year Verizon Wireless 4G LTE data plans to four middle schools in SAISD, including Rhodes. The partnership also provided connectivity for students in their homes, a resource that will benefit families as well.
His work on that and other initiatives, including a popular robotics program, earned Davis a 2017 Inspire Award from the SAISD Foundation. Speaking before the board, foundation CEO Judy Geelhoed recalled Davis’s humility in receiving the award.
“He was so surprised about that honor, and he shouldn’t have been,” Geelhoed said.
While the renaming of the technology building at Rhodes did not face any visible opposition, the 2,000 signatures gathered were a testament to Davis’s legacy with his fellow teachers as well. Davis participated in a new teacher training course provided by the Alliance. He also, though, had something that can’t be taught.
“He loved what he did,” Davis’s ex-wife Viviana said to the board. She and Davis’s two daughters spoke at the meeting as well, thanking the “Rhodes familia” for their support. “He probably never knew how much he impacted his students.”
Breaking with protocol, board president Patti Radle expressed empathy and sorrow with the family during citizens to be heard. Later, as the board considered the various signage options for the technology building, all made clear that they wanted Davis’s legacy of commitment and exploration to live on, even after those who knew directly were gone. In addition to the outside signage, the board voted to have a more detailed tribute inside the building as well, explaining that really, without Davis, the program housed therein would not be what it is today and tomorrow.
From the sound of things, it’s unlikely that Davis would have seen himself as a likely namesake, given his humility and ambivalence toward the spotlight. However, it serves as a fitting reminder of the true heroism of everyday faithfulness, and commitment to making the world a more connected, kinder place.
Originally published as “School building renamed to honor Bill Davis’s legacy. A legacy of making things better,” Hall Monitor, October 21, 2018
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