Back to school! Three words but myriad reactions – excitement, nervousness, anticipation, fear, uncertainty, hope, wonderment and…butterflies. The approaching first day of class creates shared emotions among students, parents, teachers and administrators.

In fact, the first school bell affects entire communities. We often set our calendars and structure our lives by the start of school rather than New Year’s Day. “This year” usually refers to the school calendar rather than the lunar calendar. We even change our driving habits with the return of school zones and crossing guards (and, of course, those new 16-year-old drivers!). Businesses eagerly anticipate the eve of school as we shop for school supplies and new clothes. Family routines are adjusted to allow for homework, practices, lessons, PTA meetings and school events.

I love the promise of a new school year. For the 16th year, our family will celebrate the first day of classes with morning photos in front of our house and an after-school snack to answer the endless questions…”what’s your schedule?”…”do you like your teacher?”…”who’s in your class?”…”do you have any homework?” The questions have changed as kids get older, but the anticipation of the first day of school has remained constant.

As I write this column for a mid-July deadline, a cloud remains over the upcoming school year. The needs of students, teachers and communities remain hostage to the interests of politicians, judges and special interests. At the moment, the “property tax relief” takes precedence over adequate funding of education. Austin’s focus on test scores threatens programs such as fine arts, foreign language and athletics.

This year is pivotal in the course of RISD and Texas public education. The need for an informed public is crucial, and that will be a challenge with reduced RISD coverage in the Dallas Morning News. As a result, RISD will expand its website information and increase the use of its listserv e-mails (please subscribe at risd.org). We will work with homeowners’ associations and civic groups to communicate with all residents of our community.

This year represents a challenge for me, too, as the new president of the RISD Board of Trustees. I am honored to serve the RISD community and ask your help as together we strive to fulfill RISD’s stated vision: “To provide each student an education in an academically excellent and individually responsive learning community.”

See you at school.