In August of last year, I addressed the faculty and staff of the McDuffie County School System in regards to the expectations and challenges we all faced this school year. There were clear indications that this would be a difficult year.
I encouraged the faculty to set high goals for their students and to push them to attain those goals, but I also reminded them that in some instances they may be the only people to show their students that they care.
The expectations for public education in 2004 are great. Many stories in the press today focus on the shortcomings of education.
Schools and school systems are being evaluated and rated based on criteria in the No Child Left Behind legislation. This includes everything from tests scores and attendance to the number of criminal acts that take place.
As I told the faculty, we should set high expectations for our students and should push them as hard as we can to attain those goals. If we never expect our students to achieve, they never will.
McDuffie County has very nice facilities. In fact, they are probably in better condition than ever before. We have up-to-date equipment and technology. Emphasis is given ensuring that we do not fall behind in our high-tech world.
We strive to attract and hire good teachers and administrators. The faculty and staff work hard to stay on the cutting edge of new teaching techniques and programs.
An example of this is the fact that we have more teachers becoming nationally certified and a large number of our teachers have and/or are getting advanced degrees. We even have a teacher with a doctoral degree in the elementary classroom. I say this to point out that I don't think teachers are the problem.
I think we would be well served to look in the mirror and really focus on what is there. Whether we want to admit it or not our school system is a reflection of our society: a reflection of the good and the bad.
As we begin 2004, I encourage you to make more time for your children and family. Take the time to hug your child before he leaves for school. When you get home from work, take the time to ask them about their day, and help them read a book or do their math problems.
If your children are now adults or if you don't have children, you can still share an encouraging word of support and a smile with someone else's child.
As a society, we need to shift our focus to the family unit and give emphasis there to ensure that our children learn. Then we will see true student achievement. We will also have an even more caring, loving and prosperous community.