Top education leaders working to improve Albany-Dougherty County

ALBANY HERALD EDITORIAL: A unique collaborative focuses on community first

Faith, it has been said, can move mountains.

Last week, we met with a remarkable group of men who exude faith — faith that the Albany/Dougherty County community can come together for the common good and move the seeming mountain that stands between our area and more prosperity.

At an Editorial Board meeting on Thursday, we had the privilege of doing something unique. The leaders of Albany’s three colleges and universities — Albany State University President Art Dunning, Darton State College President Paul Jones and Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker — and the leader of the county’s secondary educational system, Superintendent David Mosely, came in an talked about the ground floor of an effort aimed at improving the community by improving the educational success of young Dougherty County students.

This collaboration of education leaders is looking west for inspiration. El Paso, Texas, to be exact. Faced with similar problems that we face here in Albany and Dougherty County, efforts there led by the University of Texas at El Paso have employed a plan that has improved students’ performance in secondary school and increased the graduation rate significantly. This group is working to flesh out a similar plan for our community.

Frankly, we have never seen individuals who have held these positions in our community come together like this with a single goal to work in concert to improve the community. By putting the Albany and Dougherty County community first, each of the four realizes that his own institution or system will benefit greatly.

The idea isn’t to finger-point and assign blame, but to work in concert to improve and lift up a community that, sadly, is too often its own worst enemy. Far too many are willing to stand by and watch other portions of Albany erode and die as long as their part hangs in there a while longer. It’s much easier to criticize than to work for solutions, and too many take the easy route.

There will have to be some fundamental changes in attitude. Children and their parents will have to see the value in education. People in general, and children in particular, tend to live up — or down — to expectations. The expectation of success and achievement has to be impressed on the children who attend class, the parents who send them to class and the classroom teachers who will be instrumental in guiding them toward it. The idea has to be instilled that to get ahead, you have to get educated, that settling should be unacceptable.

This sort of seismic cultural change won’t happen overnight. But El Paso has proven that significant improvements can happen more quickly than one might imagine.

A journey like this starts with a first step, but before that step is taken a pathway has to be chosen and mapped out. Developing that map is what the presidents and superintendent are working on now.

We’re excited about the potential of this collaboration, and the determination and vision expressed by Dunning, Jones, Parker and Mosely. We hope others in the community will embrace this effort and realize, too, that a community is only as strong as its weakest link. Surely improving the educational achievement of the children of Dougherty County can only benefit the city, county and region. This is a worthy goal, one that can lead to renewed prosperity for our region and re-instill pride that has been missing too long.

The group knows this will not work without significant community buy-in. Faith is belief and it is clear that the members of this collaborative believe they can work together in a way that has never been attempted before in this community to move a mountain of doubts, skepticism and self-interests. We believe they’re up to the task and we support this effort to make our community a better place to live.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board