Responding to Your Requests for Change
Thomas B. Lockamy, Jr. Ed.D.
“Change we can believe in.” President Barack Obama swept into office last year riding a wave of enthusiasm built around the concept that if our country is going to improve then we must make fundamental changes. Regardless of your political affiliation the axiom remains the same, if you continue doing the same things the same way you will continue to see the same results. To think otherwise likens itself to insanity. The same is true for our school system.
I have been welcomed into your churches, synagogues and places of worship each weekend. You have shared with me your thoughts on our school system and I have listened to you very carefully. I have also enjoyed meeting with our community’s civic groups on an almost weekly basis and I have listened very carefully. Our school board initiated Town Hall Meetings over a year ago, and in each meeting I have listened very carefully. I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking and listening to each of your concerns over the past four years, and overwhelmingly you have expressed a unified message; please change our schools into a true learning community addressing the needs of all students.
The reorganizational plan before the School Board is born out of the many needs and desires you have expressed over the past four years. It is an open-ended plan that will be monitored very closely. The programs that thrive and excel can expect continued support, however those programs that fail to meet expectations will either be modified or eliminated. In addition, many of you have asked for more K-8, or actually PreK-8 schools, and while many of those are included in the reorganizational plan, still other communities have expressed the desire to pursue this approach. I strongly encourage you to do so.
Together we have worked to support our students facing significant challenges. Together we have worked to reduce the truancy rate and our 2% truancy rate is one of the best in this state and the nation. Together we have worked to provide new challenges for students in the form of the Woodville-Tompkins Technical and Career Institute which is so popular that eventually we will have to expand its capabilities to meet the expressed needs of both our students and business community. Together we created an Early College program to challenge those students who really desire to go on to college but lack the support to achieve this goal. Through dual enrollment and significant business support we are achieving this goal for those students who are typically underrepresented on college campuses. Together we have worked to improve the graduation rate across our district. We are actively working to identify those students in danger of dropping out. Together we have created alternatives within our school system to retain all students with a desire to learn and excel.
While we have made great strides together, we must reorganize our schools to allow for natural feeder patterns, all-the-while keeping students closer to their homes, another repeating theme I heard from so many of you. Just like the parents in West Savannah who want to keep their students close to home in schools like Bartow, Butler, and Beach, parents on the islands want to keep their children close to home in schools like Marshpoint, Isle of Hope, and Coastal.
This plan does not exclude anyone; rather it includes every school in every sector of our community. Later this year we will begin the massive undertaking of redistricting our schools due to population shifts and allow for the more efficient service of students. In addition, your forward thinking with E-SPLOST will provide the necessary funding for new and replacement schools to begin construction soon, including Beach, Butler, Pulaski, Oglethorpe, Godley Station, and the new Westside High School.
I am wholly committed to equitably servicing all students. Every student is different. Some students require greater levels of support to be successful than others. Equality would say that every child should receive the same level of support. Obviously, equality would leave many students very far behind. Equity says every student will receive the necessary support required for their academic success. I will not waiver from this commitment; to provide every student with the essential tools required to sustain their academic success because All Means All!
Every school now has the scaffolding and supports necessary to challenge and undergird our students facing significant challenges. Every school now enjoys a Gifted Program. Every school now is seeing improvements in technology and its infrastructure. Every school now can boast of a PTA that is working with our principals, teachers and staff to create a more inclusive atmosphere. Every school’s safety plan will soon be further reinforced with new fencing, thanks to E-SPLOST, creating a single point of entry, a real enhancement to security. Additionally, every secondary school now has a network of video surveillance cameras which is paying huge dividends in safety.
Your requests and concerns have provided the framework for the proposed reorganization of our school district. I am convinced that we are effectively responding to your expressed desire to create a World Class school district. Still, the Journey to World Class is challenging but our journey is born out of one singular premise; that every student deserves a rigorous, yet enriching education.