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Lack of trust affects future opportunities

Deborah V. Bowie

Deborah V. Bowie

As I sat in a packed room of the Dougherty County School System listening to the public debate over whether to authorize the commissioning of the system’s first College and Career Academy, I was struck by the larger issue at-hand and the obvious elephant in the room: Trust, or a lack thereof.

Dougherty County School Board member Anita Williams-Brown, who listened quietly as her colleagues struggled for a consensus to bring the charter school issue up for a discussion, summoned the courage to lay the real issue on the line when she said, “This is an issue of trust. We don’t trust who’s on the board.”

Brown was speaking, of course, of the composition of proposed board members for the charter initiative — four members of the business community that had been offered to come from the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission.

“This is an issue of trust,” Williams-Brown said. “We don’t trust who’s on the board.”

For many of the local businessmen and women (a diverse group of African Americans, whites and an Indian-born transplant) who had given so freely of their time and resources over the course of nearly a year, that succinct statement was hard to digest. Many had committed to attending monthly meetings, carpooling to Newnan and other College and Career Academy sites across the state, poured through piles of data and statistics and some even raised money from their colleagues to help fund the initiative.

While the group acknowledged the uphill battle of reversing a cycle of failure where only 54 percent of the county’s high school students had graduated in 2011, the words of “we don’t trust you” had simply never been considered. Sure, the challenge of introducing a new model of education — one based on incentivizing faculty to offer courses students would not only find relevant but rewarding in the sense of producing real-life employment skills — would be a daunting enough task. Change is never easy, but the danger of doing nothing is far worse. Trust is even harder to achieve when the parties hoping to accomplish the same ends - helping our children to be successful in life — simply don’t trust each other enough.

Although I have only been in Albany a year, I do understand the real and pervasive sense of disenfranchisement many locals feel after decades of real economic disparity, a lack of resources and a choked path of access to opportunities that have seemingly benefitted only a select few for so long. Deep South communities share a difficult history of Jim Crow segregation and separate but unequal opportunities. Anyone failing to acknowledge that is simply choosing to ignore the obvious, but we cannot allow ourselves to be mired in that history to the point of paralysis and infighting.

Trust takes time and effort. On a very basic human relations level, if trust is broken or doesn’t exist, it’s hard to go anywhere and impossible to build on. Trust is, after all, a basic element of the human relationship, but just as a couple struggling to save a failed marriage, the ability to restore and grow trust must begin with a common mission to fix the problem.

We have a serious problem in Dougherty County. Nearly half of our young people have given up on the traditional path of education as the key to economic prosperity. They have told us they don’t trust us either, and to prove it, they have decided to walk out on their futures. As I replay the events of the board meeting, I am left with one question: Will we do the same?

Deborah V. Bowie, IOM, is the senior director of Public Policy and Communications at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the College and Career Academy Steering Committee.

Comments

billybob 1 year, 9 months ago

Oh please. If a black person can't make it in Albany, they can't make it anywhere. Black mayor, black police chief, black city manager... The list goes on and on. The school board members are the ones who shouldn't be trusted. Just look at their track record. But most of the school board members are, you guessed it, black! They will continue to be elected regardless of their poor performance because their constituents are, you guessed it, black! And in Albany, that is more important than your ability, intellect or experience.

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Cartman 1 year, 9 months ago

Thanks for writing this Deborah. That is rich. A DCSS board member telling a committee of volunteers who had shown an obvious committment to jump in and do something productive - that they weren't trusted. I don't know how much more insulting it could have been. I wasn't there but if this article is to be believed, the real shame is that the committee was so undeserving of the insult. The DCSS board obviously can't run a school system, why not give someone a shot at improving part of it? If Rev. Simmons is influential and can make a board turn 180 degrees; I wish he would go straighten out a Hospital Board meeting and really do this community a favor. Bottom Line: A few volunteers got together to improve things and committed the sin of including some white folks; so they were shoved aside and insulted. Maybe billybob is right. What a trainwreck. This school system is a failure on many different levels. I pray for the students and teachers.

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Spike 1 year, 9 months ago

Well stated Deborah. I just hope that the folks that were told they weren't trusted after all of their sacrifices don't give up.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 9 months ago

Another translation: "Trust" means they are not of the same skin color as you. Don't dance around the truth. Just spit it out.

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LoneCycler 1 year, 9 months ago

"Pervasive sense of disenfranchisement" pretty much says it all. I hope the do-gooders that thought Albany HS would become some beacon of hope for otherwise disgruntled students who would rather not go to that school, or any other school, will finally go back to doing what ever it was they were and leave off torturing the citizens of Albany with their high minded ideas. The DCSS may be a huge failure but any solution to the problem proposed by a "diverse" group that includes whites and southwest asians is not going to be accepted by this community. "Trust" in this instance is code for "blacks did not come up with this idea so it must be another attempt at exploitation."

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chinaberry25 1 year, 9 months ago

Does the board really care about the students. If they did, they would have nipped it in the bud years ago. You have students leaving campus after they get off the bus. Droves of them are headed for the day to another's house closeby. They leave campus anytime they want to. They come back just before the bell rings. Go to Tallulah Massey and sit and wait. These are students that the taxpayers of Georgia are paying for. The DCSS has a Saturday school, free summer school up to 8th grade. What more can the students ask for? Unless a career academy allows the child to take state board and go to work at 18, then what good is it? At Lee Co. HS they have a wonderful job program, welding construction, etc. You still have to attend Vo-Tech to get certified. So what good is it? Money wasted.

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