Last week was an extraordinary week, not just for me but for the entire Macon-Bibb County area. My Sunday started in church followed by an afternoon of NFL football, but Sunday night there was magic. The celebration of Otis Redding’s 75 birthday at the City Auditorium. It was, as young people say, “Off the chain.”
It was good to see the Reddings, Otis III, Dexter and Mark, on stage together again and the duo of Chuck Leavell and Robert McDuffie reminded me how deep Macon’s musical tradition goes and with the opening of the DREAM Academy, an arts and music charter school next year, how the next generation of dreamers will be trained.
For all the glitterati, Donny Simpson, the legendary DJ, Steve Cropper, Eddie Floyd and William Bell and Gregg Allman, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, I was most impressed by the words of Maestro Roderick Cox, who is now the assistant conductor for the Minnesota Orchestra. He spoke from his heart about how the Otis Redding Foundation helped create his dream and made it possible for it to come true. And then to watch and listen to the DREAM Choir sing, “America the Beautiful,” and later accompany Andra Day. Yes, magic was in the air.
Monday, I was headed to Atlanta for the annual meeting of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, where I serve as a trustee. Later that night, at the Page Turning Event at the Infinite Energy Forum in Duluth, we honored J. Alvin Wilbanks and the Gwinnett County Public Schools.
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Wilbanks has headed up the Gwinnett district for 20 years and has compiled an astonishing list of accomplishments. The statistics could make your head swim: The district has 178,000 students in 139 schools with 61 percent of its students being either African-American, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic or multiracial and many from economically disadvataged backgrounds, speaking 100 different languages. The district has won the Broad Prize for Urban Education twice and was a finalist in another year.
Wilbanks is a humble leader who focuses on the effectiveness of the education delivered by the district. It is delivering quite well. The elementary schools have a CCRPI (College and Career Readiness Performance Index) score of 80.7, middle schools, 78.7 and high schools, 81.7.
Tuesday morning, I got ready to head back to Macon and was reminded again why I don’t live in the Atlanta area. I looked down at my GPS and there were red dots, denoting traffic congestion, on every major highway. All the side routes winding from Duluth, were crowded, too, because those drivers were thinking the same thing I was thinking. I’m too old to want to do that every day.
Wednesday, was pretty uneventful, with the exception of two events. The Honorable Judge Stephen Dillard who sits on Georgia’s Court of Appeals was the speaker for my Downtown Rotary Club. That was a good thing, but the last email I would receive through my work email address would be at about 10:47 a.m. Seems Google Business servers caught a cold and were out all over the world for the next 30-plus hours. I would bet some businesses are having a peek at their Google all-in-one strategy. If you keep all of your eggs in one basket and suddenly you can’t get to that basket, you’re in big trouble. I get lots of email and I’m still trying to catch up.
Thursday was another super day, again centered around music. All props have to go to Danny Glover a Tennessee State alum. TSU was headed down to Jacksonville to play the halftime show for the football game between the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats and the TSU Aristocrats from Nashville. Its band is 240 members strong and they stopped by Southwest High School for a morning of practice, first on the field, and then inside the gym for a pep rally. It was so loud, but so good. Band members from Southwest, Northeast, Central, Westside and Howard got to see how a college band looks, acts and performs. It showed them the next steps in their paths to success. Priceless.
Also in attendance was former Southwest High Band Director Oscar Jackson. Turns out he was the Drum Major for TSU in 1957. Yep, it was a good week.