Thursday, June 12, 2008

Police Chief takes helm at Harding Elementary


After 29 years in law enforcement, Santa Barbara Police Chief Cam Sanchez traded in the badge and gun yesterday for a one-day stint as principal at Harding Elementary School.
He consoled children who were bullied, disciplined the bullies, spoke to older youth about the perils of gang life and went to recess for the first time in several decades.
At the end of the day, Sanchez said there’s no question in his mind that usual Harding Principal Sally Kingston, who filled in for Sanchez at the police station, has the harder job.

“Hands down she has the harder job and she needs to make more money just like all the other teachers,” he said. “They are special, special people.”
When Sanchez arrived in the United States with his family in the second grade, he said he didn’t speak a lick of English.
He had it rough, just like thousands of kids in Santa Barbara who are struggling to learn a new language while excelling in other subjects.
But what got Sanchez through those tough times he said, were his teachers.
While cruising from classroom to classroom yesterday, Sanchez said he got to meet with a number of Spanish speaking children who are grappling with the same issues he faced growing up in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
When the students found out Sanchez was once in the same boat as they are, he said they couldn’t believe it.
“They felt like they were alone in that area,” he said.
But regardless of the struggle, Sanchez said children and adults alike have to push on and persevere.
“Hardships are hardships and you just have to make it through,” he said.
Sanchez regularly reads to local students and makes appearances on campus as often as possible.
He said it was on such a visit that Kingston and he got talking about who had the most difficult job and possibly switching.
“I said you know, let’s do that,” he said.
Kingston took a tour of the police station, went on a ride along with officers and attended an afternoon briefing. She couldn’t be reached for comment.
Sanchez said the jobs have similarities in that during both jobs, it’s difficult to get people to listen, but the children listen better than the adults.
When asked if he would ever consider a permanent job change, Sanchez said he has often thought about teaching elementary school when he retires.
“I think I’d really love to do that,” he said. “Teaching is basically the greatest profession, I think.”

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