Miracles on Mulberry

February 12, 2012 

(In full disclosure, I attended Bibb County public schools -- first through 12th grades and graduated in 1979).

I will be the first to admit, after a great deal of analysis, there are positive features included in the Macon Miracle proposal made by Superintendent Romain Dallemand. On the same hand, there are some real concerns that should cause critical thinkers to probe deeper.

Let me make sure you hear me: This is not a personal attack on the superintendent. Whether we trust him or not, the passage or rejection of the policies in his plan should not be based on pettiness or personalities.

At the time Dallemand was hired, I don’t recall much disapproval with the selection process. While the board was split in its decision to employee him, the hiring method happened without much hullabaloo.

Residents of Macon/Bibb County who either indicate support or denounce the action steps printed in the marvelous manifesto, should have taken the required time to review the processes and procedures before prejudging.

It has taken me the greater portion of four evenings to digest the 26-page document. The 174 steps, strategies and goals are mind-numbing at best. If I were a voting board member asked to render a swift conclusion on this “must have” strategic plan, I would vote no.

More time is needed to comprehend and seek clarification from the plan writers. The major aspects and data are daunting and we have too much at stake to make an uneducated decision. This is the type pitch that ought to be vetted, debated and voted up or down based on understanding the plan’s merits in a reasonable time period.

Thankfully, Board President Tommy Barnes and Dallemand decided not to rush a vote following Friday’s pomp and circumstance at the Macon Coliseum.

Today, my concerns as a taxpayer, stakeholder and member of the community at-large are that the sensational plan doesn’t address the most glaring problems in our system. I feel an omission has been made regarding:

Line item details on up front costs of execution (now estimated at $7 million to $9 million);

Failure to address real safety concerns;

An immediate plan to turnaround the anemic 44.6 percent graduation rate;

Dejected morale among employees.

Dallemand and his staff should be commended for the exhausting hours they’ve spent on the document and for performing a few miraculous signs over the last nine days.

Miracle No. 1: Awakenings.

For the first time since the abstinence in sexual education curriculum found its way into the conversation in 1993-94, more parents, students, teachers and the business community seem aware of public schools. Since the session that took place at the BOE headquarters on Feb. 3, the community’s collective coma has ended.

Miracle No. 2: Student involvement.

After finding it difficult in getting their grievances in the hands of the superintendent, Tanner Pruitt and Brett Felty, two seniors from Central High School, coordinated a 300 student “protest” in front of the BOE building on Mulberry Street. It was a cross section of black and white, male and female. Those who took part and led the group were considerate, well-behaved and clearly advanced and proficient students. You couldn’t have asked for a finer group to represent their concerned peers.

Dallemand missed a great opportunity to meet with these young men and women.

Regardless of whether this plan is implemented in part or in toto, school administrators must realize they have a tremendous amount of work to do in mending their ineffective brand and that of the Bibb County schools. Someone best take hold of the district’s public image soon.

The one seared in the minds of a divided population is growing more and more frightful.

Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program.

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