By Lance Hammonds
Chair of the Rockbridge Coalition
The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement produces an annual “Report Card” that tracks several factors that impact student achievement in Georgia. The report card is designed to provide information to educators, parents, students, and all stakeholders with valuable information and challenges us to improve education for all the children in our community.
I struggled with this information because I do not believe it properly reflects the hard work and dedication of our teachers and staff. But this is the information that the state of Georgia posts on their website regarding the quality of our schools.
The Rockbridge Coalition has a vision for the community as being a place where neighboring communities are proactively engaged creating a thriving sustainable community of choice for diverse families and businesses. To realize this vision, the schools in the coalition must be of the quality that attracts young families seeking to educate their children. Based on the report cards from the state, we have much more work to do. This is true for many of the schools in South DeKalb.
The report card shows that our schools are spending an ample amount of money per pupil, but the return on this investment in many cases is lacking. This is assuming most of the funds spent reaches the classroom. This question has been raised for many years and has fueled the demand for a forensic audit. This request thus far has been ignored by the DeKalb School District.
Other important factors are percentages of families considered economically disadvantaged and mobility or movement during the school year. The school district cannot control family income or mobility. It appears that we need higher paying jobs in our community to raise the median income of families. The Gwinnett County schools in the coalition have lower average percentages of families considered economically disadvantage and lower mobility rates. Their report cards are noticeably better. Gwinnett County School system has also had one Superintendent for the past 25 years and DeKalb has had six. The percentages of families considered economically disadvantaged, the mobility rates and stability of a school system can only be impacted by our county, state, and federal elected officials with legislation to raise the minimum wages, attract quality jobs and bring stability to our schools.
The key question is what are we prepared to do? I believe the answer is to engage our schools as a community. We must show our teachers and staff that we wholeheartedly appreciate and value their efforts to educate our children. My hope is that the schools in the Rockbridge Coalition will be the place where the best teachers and staff will want to work because they have the most community support!
The Rockbridge Coalition will be having a Town Hall on April 6 to learn how we can do this. I welcome you to join us and learn how to “Engage Our Schools For Success.” Go to our website www.therockbridgecoalition.org , scroll down the page and click register.