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ROGER WATSON COLUMN: Schools need community involvement

Last week, letter writer Mack Mabry delivered a stinging critique of the Stanly County school system.

He talked about how years of inadequate funding have led to inconveniently timed bus routes and a STEM program that lacks the necessary resources to be effective.

Roger Watson

It was the second-most read story on our website last week, right behind the story about the bank robber who was nabbed.

The reaction of our readers on Facebook was pretty much summed up by one reader’s comment, “Sounds about right.” It was interesting that no one defended Stanly County Schools. No one said the schools are not as “lousy” as the letter writer made them sound or told of a positive experience they or their children had in the school system.

Compare and contrast our situation with a recent county commissioners meeting in Beaufort County where, according to Vail Stewart Rumley of the Washington Daily News, a crowd of educators, administrators, parents and other supporters filled the county commissioners chambers demanding increased school funding.

Where is Stanly County’s crowded meeting room asking for a better school system?

No citizens spoke during the county’s recent public hearing on the upcoming budget.

As a community, do we care?

Do we care that Stanly County’s average SAT score for the Class of 2018 was 1,053?

That’s 37 points below the state average of 1,090. Only South Stanly High School beat the state average with a score of 1,127. Albemarle High’s score of 938 was in the bottom 10 percent of the more than 450 high schools scored in the state.

Do we care that six of the 20 schools in Stanly County received a score of “D” as overall performance grades for the 2017-18 school year? Only the Stanly Early College received an “A.”

If we are waiting for the school board or the county commissioners to fix these academic performance issues on their own it simply isn’t going to get done. They talk about safety, capital improvements, saving money and transportation issues. I don’t hear a lot of talk about academic improvement.

Academic improvement also involves community improvement. There are a lot more ingredients in those SAT numbers than just what happens in the classroom over the course of the student’s academic career.

A very wise man once told me politicians are not leaders. They are just good followers. I have found that to be very true on every level of government.

The true power in every community comes from the people. Unless parents of children impacted by the school system begin filling some meeting rooms advocating for change and participating in the local elections process, very little will happen.

We have a chance to make things better for future graduating classes to improve the schools and our students’ opportunities for success.

The first steps are caring and believing we can make a difference.

Roger Watson is publisher of The Stanly News & Press.