Don't doubt yourself When daylight fades and darkness begins ... You're the one who knows where it's at. The rest who think they've got it pat Know nothing.
-- The Byrds
I ran into Brent Fowler, the excellent young assistant principal at Albany's Lincoln Magnet School, this weekend.
After we exchanged greetings, he looked at me expectantly, and I did the same. He was waiting for the inevitable question, and I guess I was expecting a response. Finally I settled the issue: "I'm proud of you," I said.
Fowler, who could turn on a fastball like few of his high school peers a few years back, grinned. All the tension eased out of him like air seeping out of a pinhole in a balloon. He relaxed.
"Thanks," he said. "I figured this would come up. It always does."
"This," of course, is the CRCT cheating scandal that hangs over the Dougherty County School System like a swarm of hungry mosquitoes, always within striking distance. Fowler was not implicated in the scandal, but that doesn't mean he hasn't heard about it.
"I pretty much prepare for it now everywhere I go," he said. "I'm going to a school meeting next week, and I know people are going to ask me about it. That's just the way it is. Everyone wants to talk about it."
While Fowler said he doesn't mind discussing with others the scandal that has made national headlines and has eroded community confidence in the local school system, he said there is one component of the criticism that irks him.
"Like I said, I understand that people are going to talk about this," he said. "But what I don't understand is why no one has defended the other teachers in the school system who did not cheat. No one talks about them. And when people condemn the actions of the teachers and administrators who cheated, they generally talk about the entire school system.
"In reality, though, even if all of the people who were accused (in a report filed by chief investigator Richard Hyde and delivered to Gov. Nathan Deal in December) of cheating did actually cheat, that's really a very small percentage of teachers in the system."
Fowler made the statement with such passion I was momentarily taken aback. He's not a man typically given to such displays.
We finished catching up, said our farewells and went our separate ways. Seeing Fowler reminded me that, despite the claims of its detractors -- the claims that are based on reality and others that are blown way out of proportion by this group and that -- Albany has not "run off" all its promising young professionals. He and others like 2010 DCSS Teacher of the Year Stephen Davis -- another Albany born-and-raised young talent -- are testaments to the promise that is widespread in this city, ready to blossom under the right tutelage.
Even with a full weekend of activities, I kept going back to Fowler's words. The more I thought about his comments, the more I realized how right he was.
This community -- and I'm including the various media that report on it, including this newspaper -- uses any opportunity to denounce the Dougherty School System for what is, you have to admit, an inordinate number of negative issues. And, in general, the complainers have every reason to do so. When you sink your share of $100 million into an enterprise, you expect a better return.
But while we're expressing our disapproval of the actions of some in the school system -- all the way from the classroom up through high-level administration to even the School Board -- we need to remember that each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. And while there is always a level of guilt by association -- it's human nature -- we should remember not to tar every school employee with the same brush.
As Fowler noted, "There are a lot of good people in this school system." Perhaps those good people, the ones who've maintained their integrity while others around them have taken whatever shortcut available, are even more deserving of our praise ... and our respect.
Email Metro Editor Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcheralbanyherald.com.