Dear Prospective Superintendent:
First of all, welcome to our fine community. I recommend the barbecue at Sconyers, the lasagna at Luigi’s, the coffee at the Metro and the cold beer at the Stillwater Taproom.
You may need a few of those beers.
You will find that the serious-minded people of the CSRA will back you in just about any sensible initiative intended to “right the ship” that is the Richmond County School system, but there are a few slowpokes who are gonna throw up speed bumps.
As our new superintendent, you have inherited a mixed bag.
The good news is, you have (mostly) good people, a well-built (mostly) infrastructure and some very eager school board members who want to see the system return to its former place at the top of the local education hierarchy.
The trustees that have publicly stated that the parents in Richmond County need to do a better job with their children at home so that the schools can perform to their potential have nailed the problem perfectly!
My wife taught for several years in a Richmond County school before she was recruited to Columbia County. She tells me the parental involvement and concern at Glenn Hills High School was dismal compared to what it is at Greenbrier High School. Yes, I understand there is a great economic disparity between the two districts involved, but there doesn’t seem to be a lack of parental involvement at your magnet schools, and there is great economic diversity among those parents.
My wife Bobbie saw firsthand that while there were plenty of good kids at Glenn Hills, most were not being prepared at home with the necessary support and encouragement young people (particularly teenagers) need in these challenging times. She was deeply involved with these students outside her normal classroom duties, as both a yearbook advisor and a cheerleading coach. She got a better view of what their lives were like than most teachers, and what she saw was not good.
Her assessment of the support her students were not getting from their families?
If you are an involved parent and a professionally trained educator you know far better than most that the biggest problem in education today is not funding, inadequate instruction or poor facilities. It is, quite simply, the uncooperative and disruptive students created by substandard parents.
While serious discipline problems do exist in Richmond County, fortunately they seem to be isolated and fairly easy to handle when they occur. The troublemakers are removed, case closed.
What is almost impossible to handle at the classroom level (particularly in middle and high school), is an unprepared, lethargic or apathetic student. These are the children who have largely been raised on “automatic pilot” with little or no worthwhile intellectual stimulation at home.
These are the kids who show up for kindergarten not knowing how to count to 10, their ABCs or even how to clean themselves up in the bathroom. The fact that children are raised in such a way is sickening, and it is not lost on people of good conscience that these kids are laid at the stoop of the school on a regular basis.
This problem is system wide, although some schools are hit with it far worse than others.
This is one of the primary reasons my 23-year-old daughter graduated from a private high school. While her mother wanted her there for religious reasons, I was far more concerned about her proximity to children who had not been raised properly. Her school was not perfect, but there were far more involved and conscientious parents sending their kids to her school than there were sending their kids to most Richmond County schools.
The local magnet schools are the exception, and perhaps theirs is the example that could be followed.
BE BOLD! Set behavior and academic performance standards system wide, and then “warehouse” the troublemakers who clearly do not want to participate in a constructive manner. Federal law mandates that you educate all but the criminally convicted, but that doesn’t mean you have to have the malcontents sitting next to the kids who are putting forth an effort. Give it a try; it certainly can’t hurt.
I would also suggest a PR campaign that puts this message in the minds of every stakeholder in Richmond County public education: “WE WILL DO OUR JOB… NOW YOU DO YOURS!”
Aim those signs at the eyes of your parents, as well as your students, and pray to God it sinks in.
Most of us have no idea what a Herculean task you have before you, but I can tell you honestly, you have an entire region watching your back. Do what needs to be done. Pull the trigger. Or, as some have suggested, flush the toilet.
In the meantime, thank you for enlisting in the effort to make Richmond County schools a success. My grandparents, parents and, yes, even my daughter, are proud products (for at least some period) of your system. We all want you to bring it back to glory.
Respectfully at your side in the fight,
National Hills Elementary, 1970-1973
T. Harry Garrett Elementary, 1975-1976
John M. Tutt Jr. High School, 1978-1980
Westside High School, Class of ’83 (Go Patriots!)