Letter to the Editor

Published 8:21 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014

It appears that John H. McRae (not the dentist Jon McRae) has appointed himself the education watchdog of Decatur and Dougherty Counties.   Unfortunately, Mr. McRae’s letters are often fraught with errors or half-truths and do little to solve problems.  Regarding the Decatur County graduation rate there are six neighboring systems in our RESA with lower rates, not just one.  The Thomas County system stat reported was incorrect.  To give credit, he is correct that Bainbridge High increased their graduation rate to the highest level yet under the new accountability system and scored higher than the state average.   He declined to mention the 13 percent increase for students with disabilities or the six percent increase for African-American students.   That increase is due to purposeful planning and hard work by teachers and leaders.

What is the school doing?  BHS has implemented alternative and non-traditional education programs, after school 21st CCLC programs, credit recovery, flexible learning programs, Teachers as Advisors, promoted engagement and the staff often serve as mentors for students whose life circumstances are stacked against them.   I can assure you that no one is satisfied with the current graduation rate and that research-based initiatives, monitoring and analysis are all in place to continue to improve student success.

What has Mr. McRae done as a citizen or in his run for the BOE to help address the dropout problem?  He claims to be offended as a former educator about the status of the system.  Has he been a mentor or volunteered on any routine basis to assist students or educators?  Has he sought mentors or business partners in the community?   Has he helped educate parents?  Has he attempted to connect resources in the state from one of his various advisory board appointments to address local problems?  Has he even inquired about what our schools are doing?   It’s easy to say we have a problem but it’s much harder to be part of a solution.

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Improving a community takes more than booing from the sidelines.  It takes collaboration and teamwork to help find creative solutions to difficult problems—poverty, homelessness, health/wellness, abuse, drugs, unfunded mandates, etc. Two common elements among schools showing improvement in Georgia are strong parent and community involvement.   Our system has made great strides in both, but we are not yet where we hope to be.  Here’s a huge thank you to all of the stakeholders who are volunteering, collaborating and working to improve services for students, and here’s an invitation to others to come join the cause.   It really does take a whole village to raise a child.

Suzi Bonifay