Donald Davis has seen a world of change in the 14 years he's collectively spent in the McDuffie County school system.
The long-time Thomson Elementary School principal has seen superintendents, teachers and students come and go.
Principal Donald Davis talks with school secretary Donna Hedgecock.
But perhaps one of the important changes he's witnessed has been the increased emphasis on the teaching of African-American history in local schools. The notion of diversity is stressed, he said, year-round and not just during February, which is Black History Month.
"I don't think there is the emphasis that was placed on (Black History Month) previously that's placed there now. There's a plus and minus to that. The plus side is the hope that African-American history is being more interwoven into American history, which is truly as it should be. The negative is that you have students that still may benefit from the specificity from knowing that a particular individual who made whatever contributions was of African-American origin and that adds to their perception to that race in general if they're not of that race," he said.
Dr. Davis said that his teachers strive to incorporate African-American history in all that they teach.
"There will be some emphasis by some teachers as they go through this particular month, but there's not a 'pick-it-up Feb. 1 and drop it Feb. 28' (mentality)," he said.
Dr. Davis has been principal at TES for nearly 15 years. Before that, he taught at Harlem High School, Evans Middle School, and Glen Hills High School in Augusta. He has also taught special education in Jefferson County, as well as in an alternative education program similar to McDuffie County's Crossroads Learning Center. He also currently serves on a number of university accreditation committees, where he travels across the country promoting ideas like diversity in some of America's most well-known colleges.
Through his experience, Dr. Davis said that the distinct differences that once existed when comparing schools in urban, rural, and suburban settings are dissipating.
"Being rural in the past means you were somewhat isolated from some of the issues and things, but with transportation, with everyone having the car to get to Augusta, and seeing things on television, I've found that our children here in this area are just as exposed and have the knowledge of things just as in a city-type setting," he said.
Even though some of these boundaries are lessening, Dr. Davis said that school systems cannot simply rely on the outside world to promote ideas of diversity and tolerance. Those need to be addressed early and often in a child's education.
Sometimes, Dr. Davis said, that means owning up to the idea that many students will not return to a community like McDuffie County when they receive a college degree.
"We cannot educate our children simply for our opportunities that we have here. Truth be told, a small percentage of our college educated students come back here to McDuffie County. Our economy just doesn't support a large number of college prepared professionals. They go away. We have to prepare them for a life outside of McDuffie County. That's something that we have to keep at the forefront when designing our own educational programs," he said.
In the meantime, Dr. Davis will continue what he's been doing for years -- helping educate the next generation of teachers, doctors, lawyers, firemen, police officers, and everything in between. It's a job he said he thinks he's particularly cut out for.
"I'm a people person. In this job you can't do anything without having to encounter the public, whether it be faculty, staff, students, parents, or community representatives. It feeds the need for me to interact with people," he said.
Dr. Davis lives in Grovetown with his wife Patricia and has two children -- daughter Jameta, 22, and son Donald Jr., 18.