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Dublin Parent Chris Bennett Awarded Superintendent’s Volunteer Award

July 18, 2015

DSC_1255“Guard your spare moments. They are like uncut diamonds. Discard them and their value will never be known. Improve them and they will become the brightest gems in a useful life.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A diamond of any value, possess many facets. So, it would be logical to attach this analogy to one that has been successful in life. At the final Superintendent’s Council luncheon in June at the District Office, parent and long time community volunteer, Chris Bennett, was awarded with what will become an annual recognition – the Superintendent’s Volunteer Award. According to Dr. Stephen Hanke, this will likely become an annual recognition and it seeks to acknowledge significant contributions made over many years of service to the district and community. Subsequently, she was honored at a Board of Trustees meeting.

So, within this theme, there are many sides to Ms. Bennett. She is a mother, author, businesswoman, wife, singer, volunteer, avid world traveler and a leader of people. The objective of this profile was not to compile a list of her accolades – and there are many. Rather, it is an attempt to help others to understand her journey; how she became a parent volunteer and an opportunity to allow her to thank her peers.

It started out innocently enough. She and her husband Rob married in 1989. This was after she graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in English. A life changing opportunity occurred when they both had the opportunity to live in Tokyo, Japan to teach English in 1991. Little did they know it at the time, but this would inspire a lifelong pursuit of travels to the four corners of the globe.

Bennett OD 3Now settled into their careers in the Bay Area, they resided in a home adjacent to Wells Middle School. They were blessed with two children. Nathaniel will soon continue on as a senior at Arizona State University in Biomedical Engineering. The unique “4 + 1” program will also allow him to achieve a master’s degree in his fifth year. Emily is a 2015 graduate of Dublin High School and she will enroll at Lewis and Clark University and she’ll be a student in Liberal Arts this fall.

As our conversation will explain, Chris didn’t necessarily plan on becoming a school or community volunteer. However, once in the fold, there are very few roles that she did not accept or embrace. She has held board positions at Frederiksen Elementary, Wells Middle and at Dublin High School. Additionally, she has been actively involved with the Dublin Partners in Education (DPIE) for well over a decade. To top it off, Ms. Bennett was also honored as the Dublin Citizen of the Year in 2011. was pleased to recently sit to down to discuss how this journey has become even more satisfying that the destination. In our conversation, you specifically mentioned former Frederiksen Elementary Principal Ron Taylor and fellow parent Catherine Brown as your earlier influencers to become more involved in site activities.  Please share how both of these individuals motivated you to take an elevated step.

Chris Bennett: “Frederiksen Principal Ron Taylor had a ‘nose’ for finding interested parents and getting them on board, including me. He encouraged and teased me into participating, then taking more significant roles. He was the first person to suggest to me (and PFSO board member Michelle McDonald) that we run for school board when Michelle gave her infamous reply: ‘You find me a wife, I’ll consider running.’

“Catherine Brown likewise taught me the art of the ‘sit-down’ meeting for convincing someone to pitch in – she would see you, come jogging over with her arms full, and say ‘I thought of you, you’d be perfect.’ She introduced me to the opportunity to be a “parent rep” on the DPIE board in 2002, and then came to me again in 2004 looking for someone to fill her President spot. Turns out no one on her board (or that she could find) felt they could fill her shoes so she asked me. As her legacy and presence were indeed legendary at Fred, I was reluctant but soon realized that a) it was time for me to step up and b) my work consultation skills could help me guide the conversation. Once we agreed that we could both live with the fact that I wasn’t her and wouldn’t lead in the same way, we moved forward.” You referenced a mild reluctance to lead the Fred PFC board – singling out that it may be difficult to supplant your predecessor.  This is a common predicament for those moving into leadership.  What was your philosophy/mood moving into this position?

Bennett: “As to my philosophy, I’d say two things this transition taught me: 1) there often must be a sense of urgency/a “vacuum” for people to step up, and 2) the outgoing leader has to walk a fine line of mentoring and staying available but not dictating how things will look. It’s always different with a new person in place, and that’s good for everyone. Catherine did a beautiful job with both those things.”  You have also served as a board member with DPIE for a number of years. While the prominence of the organization has fluctuated over the years, your devotion has not.  In 2015, please provide us with an update as to its impact upon all schools across DUSD.

Bennett: “My passion for DPIE started when I understood that I/we as an organization could have an impact on the larger school district. I’m a “big picture” thinker and was very happy to find a way to contribute to the larger whole while maintaining my roles at my kids’ school sites. For me, DPIE represents synergy: between business and education, among levels and sites in the district, and among the CARE pillars that we support: Career Exploration, Arts Education, Resources for Educators, and Education Support. We’ve supported Project Lead the Way Engineering Academy, dictionaries for third graders, funds for new teachers, art activities, career days at the middle schools, and a career boot camp at Valley High School, just to name a few items – as well as providing the summer enrichment academy. Bringing resources and skills from the business world to the school district is our primary mission.” As we have come to understand, one of your personal passions is singing.  As an active member of WomenSing, help our readers understand how you became an active member of this organization.

Bennett: “As with almost everything I’ve done over the past 20 years, this one grew out of being a parent! I was a parent liaison for many years with the choir my son Nathaniel sang in, Contra Costa Children’s Chorus. As Nate was finishing his final year with them, the director of the children’s choir asked me if I was going to continue to sing. When I hesitated, he invited me to audition for the women’s choir he conducts, WomenSing, and the rest is history. I’m in my third year with a generous and incredibly talented group of women, learning a lot and hoping someday to feel like I have reached their caliber. There’s no joy like making beautiful music with committed and talented friends, and in addition this group gave me something to start as I was “losing” my oldest child and mourning the transition. I highly recommend finding something new and exciting to do as your kid(s) graduate!” As you’ve received this very significant recognition – the Superintendent’s Volunteer Award, please articulate what this honor represents – particularly as it relates to your personal “village” of volunteers that have stood by you over the years.

Bennett: “Anyone who’s heard me respond to getting an award knows that my first reaction is “there are so many people who also deserve this.” That’s not false modesty, I have been so fortunate to work with (and play with) many gifted and dedicated people, including especially my partner in crime Michelle McDonald who is a lot like Ginger Rogers to my Fred Astaire: she does everything I do but backwards and in high heels. The Frederiksen ‘Village’ is a strong one indeed and we really support, console and defend each other as needed. I know it’s one of many, but this one is mine. And I neither could nor would have done this without them.

“The other call-out is my amazing and patient husband, Rob, who has coached yearly homecoming floats out of two classes of high school students, tutors math every week at DHS, and even heads back to Frederiksen to teach sculpting every year – all while working a full-time job and supporting our family. It was a great joy for me that we shared a spirit award at DHS – to see him recognized for all his contributions was wonderful.”

So, after successfully matriculating two children through Dublin High School and beyond, what might be next? We asked in rapid fire succession. Continued global travel? “Yes.” Added service to the Dublin community? “For sure.” Desire to continue making a difference at our schools? “Definitely – it’s in my heart.” would like to thank Chris and Rob Bennett for their devotion to the entire Dublin community – particularly as it relates to the success of our schools and their programs. The quote at the opening of this profile is a respectful homage to Chris as her passion is American Literature.

Bennett OD 4


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