Dougherty County School Board write-in candidate Lorenzo Heard is suggesting that the school system look at its successful schools and use them as a model for the rest of the schools in the system. (Sept. 16, 2012)
ALBANY It’s been an interesting six weeks for Second Greater Mt. Olive Baptist Church Pastor Lorenzo Heard.
After Dougherty County School Board at-large incumbent Anita Williams-Brown was ousted by challenger Lane Price in the July 31 Democratic primary, Heard said he felt “compelled” to attempt to enter the race as an independent candidate in November’s general election.
His plans, however were thwarted by the Dougherty Board of Elections, which denied his application for candidacy.
Heard filed suit against the board, then qualified to run as a write-in candidate. As a write-in, his name would not appear on the ballot and a voter who wanted to vote for him would have to write in his name. His case for a spot on the ballot as an independent candidate is scheduled to be heard on Oct. 1 by Superior Court Judge J. Richard Porter III.
“I felt very compelled that our school system, particularly our children, need an advocate who has vision enough to see the changes that need to be made and the courage, and the confidence to make those changes,” Heard said during a Thursday interview. “I have been involved with the Dougherty County School System for a number of years and I think that I can make it better and greater than what it actually is.”
Heard said he understands that the need for change is obvious in a system that is recovering from a state CRCT investigation and getting into Title I expenditure issues while having to answer questions about its free and reduced-cost meal application process.
“I can’t tell you right now what needs to be changed first without getting in for a closer look,” said Heard. “I do know that the system is failing, but that has not just begun. The system has not prepared our kids for the future holistically in the last 19 years. I’ve seen a system that certainly is not all failure. Do I blame the administration for those failures? Absolutely not.
“The children play a part, and the parents and the community also have a share of the responsibility in a school system empowering our kids to be successful. We all have an obligation to make sure the system works.”
Heard said the reality is the Dougherty County School System poses its own unique set of challenges.
“Our challenges may be different than some other places,” he said. “If you have a higher rate of parents without a high school diploma, GED or a college degree, that poses a different challenge that other systems may not have. It is going to take someone who can identify those challenges and can aggressively look at making changes through policy and how to overcome the barriers to why we haven’t been as successful as we could be.”
Heard then pointed out success stories within the school system.
“I don’t want to suggest that we have no success stories in the system,” he said. “We have some winning schools like Lincoln (Elementary Magnet), which has established the needed environment for education. Lincoln has the best and brightest in the system, but they also have discipline and parental involvement.
“We have to figure out how they do it and implement the Lincoln model throughout the school system. We also need to take a closer look at what we’re doing at other successful schools like Lake Park and Robert Cross.”
Heard suggested that all three schools share a common trait — discipline.
“If we look back on the decline of public education in this country, it didn’t start when we removed prayer for our schools. It started when we removed the discipline from our schools,” he said.
Heard said he feels the district needs to focus more on the system’s nearly 16,000 students. Then progress, and healing, can begin.
“The greatest failing of the Dougherty County School System is that our children have not been our greatest focus,” he said. “We spend a lot of time looking at dollars and where dollars are going and who gets them. Now where dollars are spent is important, but I don’t think there has been enough dialog about children and how to help them be successful.
“We need people without titles and all the rest to volunteer, to get involved. All people, the entire community, should want to see our children succeed.”