Since 1998, I have been fighting a battle that has been fruitless to say the least. While serving as the youth minister at Greater 2nd Mt. Olive Baptist Church, we held an eight week Summer Camp yearly. At the beginning of the camp, we would give students an assessment to determine where the students were academically. What was so sad to me was the fact that there were a vast majority of students who were considered “Honor Roll” students in Dougherty County, but their assessment results proved otherwise.
I brought this to the attention of then-Superintendent Dr. Sally Whatley, as well as the curriculum director. When I brought this matter to their attention, there was never any follow-up to address these concerns. The conclusion that I came to at that point is that the system just wanted to make sure that the numbers looked good. Fast forward some 14 years later and the same problems remain. For what it is worth to you the readers, the Titanic (Dougherty County School System) is slowly sinking and unless someone throws this school system some lifesaving techniques, the whole city will suffer.
This city will not thrive unless we do something about the educational system that is broken. Only in Dougherty County will we allow people to stay on jobs that they are not even qualified for. Case in point, the Title I director gives contracts to family and friends and the policy states that it is illegal and she is able to act as if she did not know it was policy. How much longer are we going to allow these asinine things to continue? It is time to hold people accountable and clean house!
I wholeheartedly agree that these things did not just start happening under our current Superintendent Dr. Joshua Murfree. What I do not understand is why some of the School Board members do not have the wherewithal to tell the superintendent to get a forensic audit of the entire system. Now that all of the skeletons are starting to fall out of the closets, some of the School Board members want to go back and look at the contractors and expenses for the past 10 years. The real issue is that there was no accountability in the school system then just like there is not any now. The question still looms, “What will it take for some of the board members to stop going along just to get along?” There are too many department heads, teachers, as well as building administrators who need to be released from their positions.
David Maschke made a presentation in December of 2011 based on data he received from the Dougherty County Curriculum Department. This data tracked students from 3rd through 8th grades. The data proved that by the time the students were in the 8th grade, their failure rate increased drastically.
From December 2011 until July 2012, neither the School Board members nor the superintendent ever addressed this major dilemma. My question is, “How can you not address such a pertinent issue such as student failure?” Some board members will make you think that Mr. Maschke is only trying to stir up trouble, when the real truth is that he is trying to make the system work. David Maschke is the only board member that I know of in the past 10 years who has brought any issue of substance up at the School Board meetings. If you do not believe me, check the records of the board meetings.
The Bibb County School System had very similar problems to DCSS when they were searching for a new Superintendent in 2010. When Dr. Romain Dallemand became superintendent in February of 2010, he spent his entire first year analyzing data, staff and the strengths and weaknesses of the system. He also held meetings across the city with parents, students, staff, community leaders, religious leaders, public and private groups, as well as other entities.
During this process, Dr. Dallemand and his staff were creating a plan of action to turn a failing system around. This plan was presented to the school board and accepted unanimously. Therein was born the Macon Miracle.
What this system needs is a plan of action to turn this failing system around. I am not saying for one minute that there are not any great students and great programs in place, but the results of the system as a whole is what I am basing my information on. There is only one high school out of four in Dougherty County that makes AYP year after year — Westover. I can assure you that the schools that are excelling are not excelling because of a system wide plan, they are excelling because they are real administrators.
Do not be fooled, there is no cohesive plan in place in this system that everyone is working from. As a matter of fact, there is no plan in place to reach the goals that are set. Do not take my word for it, ask the building administrators or better yet, ask any board member.
There are some schools that still do not have all of their staff in place for this upcoming school year and there is not a meeting scheduled before the school year begins. How can we expect to have a successful school year in some of the schools where there are interim principals in limbo and there are teachers who do not have signed contracts and are wondering if they are to report to work on the first day of school? Again, only in Dougherty County will we have announcements for principal positions three weeks before school starts. If that is not a lack of leadership, I do not know what is.
Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The word “perish” in the Hebrew means to run amuck or to run without restraint. Matthew 15:14 says, “And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” To sum up these two verses is real simple: This system needs a visionary leader who knows how to take this system from where it is to where it needs to be. This system also needs board members who can help lead the system out of darkness and into the light. Accountability is the answer and until we recognize that, things will stay the same.
Lawrence Knighton is the Sales and Marketing Director for Chick-fil-A and the Pastor of the St. James Baptist Church in Baconton, Ga.