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The Ruttle Report - A lot can happen in twenty years

High school can be crazy and wild, and for me, this made it unforgettable.
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The month of June is a pretty significant one.

For one, it brings with it the arrival of the summer season, and the day-to-day visuals include everything from lawnmowers cutting grass and kids selling lemonade to people enjoying all kinds of activities outdoors, including walking in all manner of directions around town on these warm, gorgeous evenings.

Me? Well, if it's a nice night out and we're not getting an evening soak, like we've been getting lately (no complaints though!), then you can typically find me over at the Veterans Memorial Park in Outlook, reading a book with my ears plugged into my phone, listening to a low-volume soundtrack of ocean waves. What can I say, that's a busy traffic intersection and Outlook is a popular "passing through" location for truckers, so I've gotta have something to drown out the noise.

As well, the month of June brings the end of the school year, and social media is flooded with all kinds of photos and congratulatory messages and posts as schools in the area hold their respective graduation ceremonies for their departing Grade 12 students.

I've attended a number of these events over the years, whether it was in Outlook or other nearby communities such as Dinsmore and Loreburn. I have to say, such events were rather unique in 2020, also known as "The Year The World Went Nuts", when we were all subjected to a rather bizarre and altered view of our world due to the limitations and restrictions brought on by the Covid-19 dilemma. But you know something? Leave it to people in small towns like Outlook, or Dinsmore, or Loreburn, or elsewhere to take such a situation and modify it, turning it into a rather unforgettable event as parades were held in such communities that really brought people together. We can't get together under one roof with everyone and watch a normal grad ceremony? That's perfectly fine; I'll just go decorate my RV to the nines and participate in a community parade that puts these kids in the spotlight.

I was there, and I watched it all unfold. I'll always remember 2020 and a good portion of 2021 as a time in our society where we saw a lot of craziness from others, including some rather disturbing ugliness from people you thought you knew, but I'll also remember it as a time when we flipped the script on everything that we were being told and turned a bad time in our lives into a series of good things for ourselves. Such grad events were definitely one of those things, and I'm sure those collective grads of 2020/2021 will remember their high school exits with some unique memories as a result.

Speaking of high school graduation, I was reminded this past week that a lot can happen in 20 years. Life pulls you in all manner of directions, career options take you all over the map, families are forged and continue to blossom, and before you know it, you're reminded that two decades have passed since you were, in fact, just a punk kid in high school with the rest of your classmates.

I graduated, along with everyone else in the Class of '04, on June 11, 2004. Depending on who you ask, I think a sizable chunk of us would be honest and tell you that it was a rather bizarre day. For one, it was a grey and rainy day in a week filled with sunshine. Secondly, the bowling alley in the rink couldn't be used because someone "forgot to book it" for our class, meaning the night just kind of ended randomly.

Finally, the whole event had a weird, hush-hush vibe to it because earlier that spring, our school principal, Mr. Robert Gallagher, was fired out of the blue for reasons still unknown to this day. We students weren't told why, even our parents were kept in the dark, and there was even the threat of having diplomas withheld if any of us "got too chatty" about it and asked too many questions. At one point, we even heard that if he showed up to the grad ceremony, he'd be arrested on-site.

Of course, knowing what I do now for a living, I would've been all over this soap opera of a story if I had a time machine and could go back. With that, I actually went back into the 2004 archives that we have here at the newspaper office to see what, if anything, was uncovered. I had my suspicions, as did a lot of my classmates at the time, and it's equal parts satisfying and bizarre to realize that, two decades later, we were right. In a July 2004 front-page article, Gallagher's side of the matter seemed to indicate that he was being forced out due to challenging the school board on issues and policies at the time that he believed were outdated; the Saskatchewan Board of Education Act was from 1995 at the time.

Apparently, challenging your bosses on things such as policies that might have been seen as outdated by some at the time was a big no-no, and Robert was given a choice of either resigning from his position or being fired. He was told that the Board felt that he had not done a satisfactory job of serving as Principal of Outlook High School. When Gallagher asked to see his evaluation, one could not be produced because according to him, a formal evaluation had not been conducted on his performance all year. This, Robert said in the article, violated the school division's own policy.

Incredibly, I discovered that even *I'm* quoted in the article, as I emailed Gallagher pledging my support, as well as that of my fellow graduating classmates at the time.

I honestly could go on and on about this, but what purpose would that serve except reminding people that sometimes there are major fumbles and mistakes made by people in charge?

Regardless of how insane our high school days ended, I look back on them fondly and with a smile on my face. Coffee runs, the cruise lap, spare periods in the hall, and burning enough CDs for anyone who asked that I'm surprised Metallica didn't include ME in that Napster lawsuit.

Perhaps the funny thing about it all, at least from my perspective, is the fact that if I were a better student in Grade 8, I wouldn't have experienced any of the things I did with these amazing people. See, I was held back and had to repeat the 8th grade in the fall of 1999, but in hindsight, I can honestly say it was the best thing that happened to me. I would end up meeting my best friends that year who I still count as 'unofficial brothers' today. Life can be interesting that way, I suppose.

It was fun, it was memorable, it was crazy, it was hectic, it was heartbreaking, it was wild.

We were kids, and it was high school.

Cheers to the rest of you 2004 grads. I'll raise a glass to you tonight.

PS. Class of '04 still rules...

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.