This month marks the beginning of another school year. For educators, it is the opportunity to set the tone for the entire year. For parents, it is the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to their child’s education. For students, it is the chance for a fresh start. August is a foundational month.
I know that schools provide much more than “book learning.” During the years I spent delivering character education programs in the school system, I had many opportunities to connect with young people in a way that seemed to make a real impact. I often see them as adults and they tell me about how our interaction back then influenced their lives for the better. Schools provide a context in which those types of interactions can happen. If you ask any successful person, they can likely tell you about a teacher, coach, or someone else affiliated with their education that inspired them.
Lately, the Dougherty County School System has received much public criticism, although I know firsthand that the schools have an abundance of caring, committed, professionals who honestly have the children’s best interests at heart. My wife is a full-time educator in the Dougherty County School System and has often shared stories with me about the kids who have become a part of her life. I know the heartbreak when one of her kids becomes one of mine; that is to say, when a school-age child commits a crime and ends up in custody.
Fortunately, that is seldom the case. Of the juveniles that come to jail, the majority are dropouts. In fact, the majority of inmates in the jail have never attained their high-school diploma. It seems that keeping kids in school is one of the best ways to keep them from breaking the law — both during their school years and into their adulthood. In fact, a 2002 UCLA study titled, “The Effect of Education on Crime” concluded that, “A 1 percent increase in the high school completion rate of all men ages 20-60 would save the United States as much as $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime incurred by victims and society at large.”
I challenge all educators to help create an environment that is healthy, productive, conducive to learning and enjoyable enough to motivate students to want to stay in school. I challenge parents to take an active role in their children’s education; to be involved and supportive of their children and also their children’s teachers. I also challenge students to take their education seriously. Obtaining a high school diploma is one of the most significant factors in determining a person’s future standard of living.
For my part, I will continue to work with those under my care; to help those who wish to better themselves and obtain their high school diploma by administering a GED program in the jail and working with community benefactors to fund the testing fees. I will also continue to provide character education programs in the local schools.
Our children’s education is a vehicle that allows us to rally together and work toward a common goal. Together, we can help to make this community better.
Sheriff Kevin Sproul is a longtime resident of Dougherty County. He is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. Sproul has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office since 1982 and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.