My Ties to Public Education

A lot has been happening this week with the Dekalb County School Board, the governing body that influences about 99,000 students’ education in the greater Atlanta area. The most recent highlights? The system is about to lose its accreditation, the school board filed a lawsuit in an attempt to preserve jobs, and the governor will decide Monday whether to follow the Georgia Board of Education’s recommendation to suspend all school board members who were not newly elected.

Just a year and a half ago, I was one of those 99,000. The more I cover education, the more I realize how my experiences in the Dekalb County School System have influenced the way I view education as a journalist.

I attended one of the top high schools in Dekalb County and one of the top 10 high schools in the state, according to U.S. News & World Report. I had the chance to meet some wonderful educators who strived each day to teach students skills in engaging and memorable ways. I’ll always consider most adverbs to be superfluous, salivate when I hear Pavlov’s name, remember how to find square roots of imaginary numbers and know how to find the amount of each element in a compound. I took plenty of Advanced Placement courses, got involved in a wide variety of extracurricular activities and had a nice selection of college acceptances to choose from at the end of senior year. But although I, along with a number of my peers, did well, not all was well in the county, especially in terms of administration.

I could recite a laundry list of issues encountered during my public school education, but one area of issues overshadowed the rest. Administrative issues — embezzlement, fraud and nepotism, among others — translated to problems visible even at the school level. For example, some students don’t have textbooks for classes because schools never saw the $12 million the school board set aside for them.

Thankfully, no problems like this have surfaced so far in my coverage of Columbia Public Schools — in fact, I’ve been very impressed by the school district. I do approach all education, however, with the mentality that there’s always room for improvement. As a result, I’m interested in looking at cause-and-effect situations — at proposed changes in curriculum requirements, for example, and how students will be affected.

Because in the end, whatever issues might be occurring in a school district, what matters most is the children being served and the education being taught.

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