Recently, a group of Seminole County men gathered for dinner as they do every month or so. The purpose was to have some fellowship and discuss the issues of the day. I was quite surprised, but also pleased, when the subject of Butch Mosely and the Dougherty County School System came up last week.
Thanks to the excellent coverage of The Albany Herald, people around Southwest Georgia are following the efforts of interim Superintendent Mosely and indeed the entire school board to turn around a system that has been failing on most counts.
Make no mistake, this is an enormous task. The slide of Albany's public education system has been long and painful. You don't change the culture of cronyism and the acceptance of mediocrity overnight. However, you have to start somewhere, and that is usually at the top.
The massive changes in the administrations of many of the schools in Albany may be painful for some, but they are needed collectively to say that there is a new way of doing things. It says that the board is serious about changing the status quo.
Why is this so important for our region? First, there are 16,000 students in the Dougherty County School System. Each one of them is entitled to a good education. When education fails them, they in turn are more likely to fail society. They will make less money. They will have more health problems. Every study for the last 50 years clearly shows a correlation between education and the likelihood of success in a young person's life.
Second, Albany is facing more challenges than most cities its size. It remains a city divided by race, economics and opportunity. The root cause of Albany's decline over the past generation, however, is the decline of its public school system. Schools that expect and demand excellence are at the center of communities that grow and prosper.
Finally, this issue is important to the entire Southwest Georgia region. That is what led a group of business leaders in Donalsonville to discuss it at dinner last week. For this region to be strong and to improve its collective economic well-being, we need for Albany and Dougherty County to become healthy again.
While there are smaller cities around this region of the state that are doing some admirable things, there really is no substitute for having Albany as a vibrant, progressive and forward-thinking city. That begins squarely with education and is nourished by selfless leadership.
So, on behalf of my group of friends, and I hope on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of people who call Southwest Georgia home, I simply would say to Butch Mosely and to the DCCS Board, "We are pulling for you."
Dan Ponder is publisher of the Donalsonville News. This column originally appeared Thursday in his Ponderings column. Ponder can be reached at danponderenterprises.net.