by Devin Baker
In the heart of the picturesque San Juan Islands, a legacy of love for family, community and communication has thrived for over a century.
It all began when our great-great-great-grandfather was awarded the first mail contract to the San Juan Islands, ushering in an era of connectivity that transcended distance and isolation. Fleeing political persecution from his homeland, he sought refuge in a land promising freedom and political transparency. With unwavering determination and a passion for the sea, he navigated the treacherous waters of the Pacific Northwest via steamboat, delivering crucial supplies, correspondence, and news to the island communities.
As time passed and the San Juan Islands flourished, so did our family’s roots on Orcas Island. Fast forward to a new era, where our father continued the family traditions, championing the values of family, community, and political advocacy. He played a pivotal role in engineering and laying the first telecommunications submarine cables, ushering in an age of communication at the speed of light. From steamboat posts to emails, the evolution of communication has been paramount in uniting our large family and nurturing our small island communities.
Our story is deeply intertwined with the history of the Islands. In the same century-old schoolhouse that has been home to generations, the torch continues to burn bright. Through public office, volunteer emergency services, and advocacy, we have strived toward a strong moral presence and a commitment to those most vulnerable in the island communities.
The islands have always been a beacon of light and openness in a fast-paced and often hostile world. Just as island lighthouses guided my ancestors into safe harbors, The Island beckoned me back into its loving embrace. With the island’s blessings, a new chapter began as the next generation raised their family, naming my oldest after the great-great-grandfather who laid the foundation of compassion, openness, and communication that still defines the bedrock of island culture.
For generations, the Orcas Island Public School has been the starting point for my family’s journey of learning and discovery. Like the island itself, the school has evolved, fostering deep community bonds and imparting the unique values of this island to future generations.
However, in today’s world, marred by division, it pains us to witness the erosion of island community values within our beloved public school system. A recent incident involving my child left unanswered questions. Requests for in-person explanations and formal written explanations have been met with denial, casting a shadow over the very principles of openness, inclusion, and open communication that our island cherishes.
Our great-great grandfather, who humbly helped foster the growth of communication upon these islands, would unquestionably be disheartened by the state our beloved community Could be heading. Our hearts are heavy with the same sorrow. As stewards of this profound legacy, we bear the responsibility of safeguarding the enduring principles of inclusion and open dialogue upon which this island was built. The moment has arrived for our educational system to mirror the island’s unwavering essence, reigniting its pledge to transparency and the cultivation of an all-embracing community.
On our cherished island, let us always remember the timeless principles that have united us across the ages. Today, we stand at a crossroads, and it is incumbent upon us to revive the flame of openness and inclusivity, reaffirming our island’s role as a steadfast symbol of unity, even as we navigate through the turbulent waters of our time.