"ANY TIME YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD AND DON'T, THEN YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME ON EARTH" -- Roberto Clemente-- Hall of Fame Baseball Player
I'm happily married into a wonderfully blended family! Together we have 6 children, four of mine, three of hers and five grandkids between us. To me; Family is everything! My wife "Gina" works as a Special Education teacher at Kennedy Elementary. I have always believed there is a special place in heaven for people who work with special needs kids. I'm active in my church and try to support community causes when possible. As a boy, I grew up in California which probably explains my love for the Giants (Baseball) and 49ers. When I turned fifteen, my Family moved to Logan, Utah where I spent much of my teenage years and graduated from Logan, High School in 1976. As a youth, my first love was playing baseball. I played from little league all the way through into my College years.
My greatest pitching performance came just prior to my decision to serve a Mission for my church. I actually threw a no-hitter against a rival team which certainly ranks as one of the highlights of my short-lived baseball career. I then took a break from college and chose to serve a two-year mission for my Church. I served my mission in the great state of Texas! I can't begin to tell you how much that helped me to grow up! Upon returning, I went back to Utah State and majored in "Communications" with a minor in "Business Administration" While at Utah State, I worked for the University radio station as a Disc Jockey. I enjoyed the opportunity to read the "Community Calendar and other local events on the air. To this day, I am often accused of still sounding like a Disc Jockey!
I also continued to pursue my passion to play organized baseball. I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else! I returned from my Mission too late to join the USU team and was picked up by another local team called the Hyrum Hornets. I loved being back on the baseball field! The problem was, I was now 30 pounds heavier and not in the best of shape. My triumphant return to the pitching mound was rudely interrupted by a line drive off the bat of a very good Utah State player. I was not able to catch or deflect the ball and was hit near my right eye by the drive. Though I was blessed to survive the injury, it effectively ended my baseball hopes and aspirations. After a stint in the hospital, I went on to get married, have four wonderful children and begin my career in the private business sector.
Fast forward to the year 2000, where I found myself purchasing a Mom and Pop grocery store in small-town Wyoming. Business ownership had always been a dream of mine, and in July of 2000, I had the opportunity to make that dream a reality. Prior to Grocery store-ownership, I had spent a lifetime in the business-field including; Store management, Promotional Sales Director, Operations, Human Resources, and direct sales. My background afforded me the experience of managing hundreds of employees and addressing the opportunities and challenges of fine-tuning my customer service skills.
In August of 2000, I was invited to join Dr. Geoff Thomas to help him with a training seminar he was planning to give to Administrators in his district. The focus of the training was on; "Managing people, Employees and Customer Service." The goal of the training was to offer the perspective that managing employees and serving customers worked similarly across many career choices. The training was well-received by his staff. As a result, the opportunity to help assistance Dr. Thomas with future training meetings happened regularly over the next ten years. During that time, I enjoyed the opportunity to get to know many of the Administrative staff at Madison School District #321. Little did I know one day I would be blessed to join them as a fellow employee of Madison School District #321.
In 2009 I sold my grocery store and moved to North Ogden, Utah. At that same time, Madison School District was awarded a "Systems of Care" Grant to partner with the Mental Health field. Essentially its purpose was to combine the resources of the School District with those of the Mental Health field to create a "Wrap-around" approach to help students who suffered from Mental Illness. Madison was only the second School District in the nation to be given the opportunity to participate in this pilot program. Certainly, something we here at Madison can be very proud of and very grateful for as a community. It was at that time, I was called by Dr. Thomas to apply for a position with the Systems of Care. Ironically it wasn't my background in business that prompted the call.
He called because he was aware of a very tragic experience my family had suffered involving my younger brother Michael. Michael suffered from Paranoid Schizophrenia among other things which effectively paralyzed his life. This insidious brain disorder was the root cause of my younger brother ending up in prison for committing a heinous crime. Michael struggled under the weight of having to deal with repeated unwanted visitations from his personal demons. It impacted every facet of his young tragic life. Imagine the memories of a great life that once was, and now dealing with a life that had been utterly destroyed by this disease of the brain. Unable to cope, this little boy who once called me his "Favorite Brother" hung himself in prison. I had not lived up to nor deserved that prestigious title.
Those who suffered from severe mental illness as Michael did in the late 80s and early 90s were sadly underserved by society. Many misunderstood the root causes of mental illness, and many questions about the rights of the mentally ill and those charged with caregiving were numerous. Society was not ready, willing, or able to deal with this insidious disease and therefore often chose to ignore it. Patients were diagnosed, treated then left to fend for themselves. Not only did the victims suffer a horrific life, but their illness also became their families’ personal nightmare and ultimate responsibility. The truth is severe mental illness impacts much more than just the individual victimized by it. Many families today suffer in silence right there with a loved one inflicted with this terrible disease.
Knowing how much this impacted my life and the lives of my family and community, Dr. Thomas felt I might be a good candidate to become the "Face of the Systems of Care" program. He envisioned me working with the school and community to further the understanding and plight of the mentally ill in our community. I felt this opportunity was something I needed to carefully consider. I wanted to make a difference in the lives of those individuals and families who suffer along with their loved ones inflicted by mental illness. Something I couldn't do for my brother in his lifetime, I desperately felt a responsibility to do in his death. I applied for and was offered a position with the Systems of Care in October of 2009.
While the specifics of the grant and my job description was being formulated, I was asked to temporarily help out with the District In-School-Suspension (ISS) Program.
During what I thought would be a short stint in the ISS program, I was asked to investigate ways to improve the outcomes of students assigned to ISS. We had too many students who kept coming back to the program. One of the measurements of success was that the students learned from their poor decisions and therefore would not have to continue to be reassigned to In-School-Suspension. I took the challenge to do so, and then one day a young man named Spencer was delivered by the Assistant Principal to my classroom. After calming down, Spencer looked at me and said; "Mr. Phillips, I don't know why I am telling you this, but I see people and hear voices which tell me to hurt other people" The chills ran up and down my spine as I considered the implications of that moment in time. "Spencer Link"
I realized I was in a unique position to understand and empathize with this young man. It was at that moment, I knew I was in the right place at the right time. I knew where I was supposed to serve. I have shared this tender story at various venues throughout Eastern Idaho, including a recent request at a High School in Idaho Falls. Several years later, I shared the story of my family tragedy with the Administrators here at Madison School District, and then with our very own Systems of Care team. It is a difficult story to share, but one that must be told. The following is a recording of my presentation to the Systems of Care several years ago. The story of why I ended up here at Madison and the impact this has had in my life. Systems of Care Link. "Michaels Tragedy"
Spencer went on to graduate from High School and to this day he and his Dad visit me when they are in town. Spencer's story was the beginning of a powerful journey for me to serve my School District and fellow man in the PASS program. I have heard it said that; "We are right where we need to be." Spencer's story would prove to be just a taste of what I would experience as the ISS/PASS Director, which have allowed me to feel that way. Seldom a day goes by that I don't leave my classroom feeling gratitude for my opportunity to serve in this position. I have shared this tender story at various venues in Eastern Idaho, including a recent request at a High School in Idaho Falls. When people ask if I like my job, they are always confused as to why I smile and say; "I have the best job in the School District".