Let’s put the children first

January 30, 2013 

Last Sunday I sat in a Sunday school class addressing the issue of poverty. Eventually the conversation turned to education. This turn in the discussion occurred simply because education or the lack of it is a major factor in determining whether or not one will live in poverty.

One of the leaders of the class is an education professional who works in Houston County and she shared some of the successful approaches to education that have been implemented in her county. As I listened to her, I wondered why Bibb County has not made similar strides toward improving our education system.

This conversation led me to do a bit of investigating about rates of graduation in other central Georgia counties. I was astounded to discover that Hancock County which is designated as the poorest county in the region has one of the highest graduation rates along with Wheeler, Monroe and Houston counties.

It seems to me that it would be a wonderful idea for us to have some type of ongoing conversation with the educators in these counties who have learned how to keep their students in school better than we have in Bibb County as well as trying to see if there are other lessons that can be learned from them.

As I sit here this morning writing about education in Bibb County, I am very distressed about all of the conflict that continues to enjoy such a good life in our district. Since I realize that one never knows how a job candidate will perform until the person is actually on the job, I can forgive our board of education for not realizing that it may not have chosen the best candidate for us when selecting the current superintendent. But I do not understand getting to the place we are at today with all of the issues around the contract renewal and the numerous financial issues that seemed very confusing to me and others with whom I have discussed them.

It will be great to see Bibb County awake to the notion that there are about 25,000 good reasons to get on with the business of building a successful education system here.

I know that it is challenging, but it can be done. It has been done in counties that are actually next door to us and it has been done in other places in the country and in the world. So it can be done here. We have to decide that it has to be done here.

This county will never progress beyond its current level unless we become completely committed to public education and making it the best system possible.

The issue is not money. We simply have a broken system that seems to defy repair. It is anyone’s guess what lies ahead for us. After the political firestorm passes, what will we do? Educators cannot really do their work because the system is too dysfunctional. We cannot continue to thrive on blame and finger pointing which amounts to simply passing the responsibility to an invisible villain. Our children are always the greatest losers.

The issue of educating our children in Bibb County is too important to be controlled by power plays and political bickering. All of us who care need to stand together in proclaiming that we have had enough of the 51.34 percent graduation rate and all of the other nonsense that continues to plague our system. We should not rest until we have a board and an administration that will work together to get the work of educating our children done more effectively. If we ever decide that educating our children is more important than anything else that we do, then we will put them first.

When we put them first our behavior will change. Today let’s say goodbye to negative politics and put our children first.

This column by Catherine Meeks, Ph.D., appears twice monthly. Meeks is also a contributing writer for the Huffington Post. E-mail her at kayma53@att.net.

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