Psssst.... wanna hear a secret? Listen carefully. I really should not be repeating this, but... "Those who tell secrets, tell lies. Pass it on."
We have all warned our children about gossiping or spreading rumors, right? But, it's hardly a piece of advice we would think we should take for ourselves is it? Or, have the adults in our school system been subjected to enough torment from the bullies of the upper echelon that everyone has slipped back into their worst nightmare - high school behavior.
Yes, I know you may be laughing to yourself, but we have a real problem in our schools and I 'm not talking about the accreditation. I'm talking about the bad behavior of grown-ups. It's time to call it out for what it is so we can all reconize it and properly correct it when we see it in ourselves or others.
You have likely heard a rumor or two if you have spent any time volunteering with your school's PTA or attending a classroom party, but could these little conversation starters actually be more sinister? Is it time we start behaving better since the school board is being called to the carpet for their own behaviors that led to the "governance issues" cited by SACS?
After all... these people were elected to "represent" us. Are we afraid or too proud to admit that's exactly what they have been doing and maybe, just maybe, they are doing their jobs a little TOO well?
Consider this: I have a very fresh and unbiased perspective to offer you on what is wrong with our schools. I knew nothing about the problems of corruption or closing of schools when I enrolled my child in 2010. I stopped following education issues in the news when my husband finally got his degree in 2000, so I missed the entire decade that SACS has identified as the one resulting in the Probation status we are all enjoying today.
So, my reference point for what school is "supposed" to be like was largely based on my own memory of school. I can honestly say that I am a good example of public school when it works the way it should. I excelled in my coursework and actually enjoyed most of the subjects I studiend. I learned my niche was for writing and journalism, but I also found a lot of friends and fun by joining sports and other clubs that were offered. I had school spirit, was involved with the student council, had plenty of opportunities to excel with advanced classes and made lifelong friends. I loved school and it had a postive impact on helping me become who I am today. I received scholarship opportunities and went on to a state college in Florida before moving to Atlanta.
But, more importantly that having a good experience is that I was not alone. Every statement I made could have easily come from any one of my friends. In fact, I looked back at my high school to figure out why I felt so differently about it than the way kids seem to feel about their schools here in DeKalb and I learned a couple of facts. My high school was consistently ranked in the Top 100 in the United States. It was integrated without any push-back or resistance in the community that I ever recall. And, my class graduated 100% of its students. No wonder I have been so shocked at the recent numbers that show our DeKalb Schools are graduating only about 60% of its students who start 9th grade. We graduated all of them. That's quite a big difference.
So, the point I was hoping to make is not that I come from an educational background that is "better" than we have here today, but that we cannot allow ourselves to expect less than what we ourselves were capable of achieving. Kids are not supposed to get dumber as time goes by. In fact, unless evolution is working in reverse, we should hope for them to grow up smarter than we are because they have us around to help them, right?
Then what is happening here? And, why? Michael Thurmond says he can fix it, but the state BOE said he cannot do it alone. He is going to need help and I challenge every person who considers themselves to be a "stakeholder" in this system to take a look at themselves and what avenues they have taken in the past that could possibly contribute to the "old way" of doing things?
We must insist on change, but it starts with a long, hard look in the mirror. If you could not honestly tell your child about what you have done in order to "help" his / her school because you don't think your child would understand, then it's time you rethink how far you are willing to go in the name of education. If you have been ignoring the news because you don't believe that one politician is any different from another, it's time you change. If you think that any advantage you can secure for your child, or your child's school, is worth it even if it comes at the price of harm to another school, think again.
My husband always calls it to my attention at a party or when I'm on the phone if he hears me start a sentence with "Don't tell anyone I told you this...," or "Here's what I heard..." He repeats one of his infamous (around my house) little gems of wisdom, "Those who tell secrets tell lies." It's his reminder to me that unless I know for sure that what I'm about to repeat is true, then it's better to keep it to myself. Because, passing along a rumor can actually be a way to give power to those who are starting them in the first place. Rumors are usually very destructive and can damage reputations and even lives.
So, Superintendent Thurmond says the voters are partially to blame here, and I agree. But, I think there are a lot more people paying attention to the issues now, so hopefully we will have that problem solves. What he may not realize is that there is another problem here and that is the power of the subculture in the system. It relies on a network of whispers, secrets and promises that no one dares discuss in the open. It's the old "you scratch my back, I'll scratch your's" approach and it is not considered to be a method of communicating that should be validated by any truely professional or legitimate business in the private sector. So, we should not tolerate it in our schools, either.
Next time you hear a rumor, investigate the truth for yourself. A little push back to the administration may be needed, but we deserve to know what is going on in our schools by an official means, without having to rely on our own ability to "network" at after-hours functions.
Let's work to make DeKalb legitimate again. That means we have to acknowledge our own role, even if we never thought of it like that before. We have to be good examples for our children before we sit back and point fingers at only a few at the top. Otherwise, we'll be on that "hamster wheel" that Nancy Jester warned us about. And, that means we will have to go through all of this again and again and again.