Dear Students, Parents, Teachers, Staff, Principals, Citizens and Friends:
Thank you, thank you, thank you! You have my deepest and most heart-felt appreciation for the cards, letters and prayers you have been sending me. I have been emotionally overwhelmed by your caring and generosity, and it means a great deal to know that you have been thinking about my recovery and wishing me the best. I must tell you that during the month I was isolated in my hospital room, I could still feel your love, support and prayers. They were so powerful, they broke through the isolation and reached me every day!
I also want to thank publicly Dr. Vincent Picozzi and the staff at Virginia Mason, who saved my life . . . my wife and two sons, who were with me every day and who provided extraordinary support . . . and the school district staff in schools and the central office for their unbridled leadership on behalf of children.
I have been asked what I might change as a result of my 30 days in the hospital, and my response is this: two and one half years ago we established a vision to create a world-class, student-focused learning system by 1999. That's what our school system was working on before I entered the hospital, that's what our school system focused on during my chemotherapy, and that's what we will continue to focus on now that I am back.
During my spare moments in the hospital, I thought of how wonderful it is to hug children in the schools I visit . . . how inspiring it is to visit classrooms and to see how much our teachers love the children they teach . . . and how incredible it is to see our teachers, parents, and school staffs creating dreams and destinies for this city's children. We have a work force that is without parallel - bright, dedicated, and completely committed to children and to this city - and I continue to be deeply honored to serve as this system's leader.
Throughout this illness, I have asked this city not to focus on me, but rather to focus on children. You responded to my request to place the needs of our children first, and I wish I could thank each one of you in person. I am especially grateful for your response to the Stanford book fund, because it will make a difference in our children's reading skills and their futures. A city cannot survive unless it has a strong education system, and I continue to be awe-struck by this city's commitment to public education.
Life does not come with guarantees, and of course all of us face challenges. It is important that those of us who face those challenges not be overpowered by them, or by the adversity that sometimes accompanies them. I am not in denial about my illness, but I will not allow it to change me or my heart or my soul. I will not give in to this illness, and I will continue to fight for children and for my life.
I love my work and I am very excited about being back . . . and I look forward to working with you to make this school system even better for our children!