A reader sent us the following essay. It got us thinking — this school system is so hyper-focused on construction, budget cuts, jobs for adults and putting out “fires” that it has completely forgotten to focus on the students. There have been hideously few press releases showcasing the truly wonderful things many of our students do in each school every day. There have been ridiculously few reports on the ordinary, everyday, American events happening in our schools. Our PR department should know that the best defense is a terrific offense and should be pushing out the good news rather than constantly reacting to the bad. Our schools are cornerstones in our communities. There should be a district-wide calendar of school events on the website. The community should be encouraged to attend. There should be a place to read about the wonderful students in DeKalb. The “Kaleidoscope” should once again be resurrected and the good, old-fashioned focus on students and learning should be the order of the day. Students need to know that they matter. They need to know that what’s important to them is important to their community and their leaders. They need to know that they are loved, treasured and supported. We need to stop worrying about the adults in the “system” and start focusing on the children. They are the future.*
Tonight I experienced both the best and the worst of the DeKalb County School System. A friend told me that Towers High School was performing a play, A Touch of Grease at 6pm (for free). She had gone the night before, and thought my kids and I would enjoy it. So, at 6pm, I Googled the name of the play and “Towers High School”… nothing. I went to the official Towers HS website and still, nothing.
Okay, I was starting to wonder if I had my information wrong, but still, I packed up my kids, ages 6 and 12 and headed towards the high school that is less than one mile away from me. Upon arrival we went inside, where an enthusiastic young man offered us drinks and snacks for the reasonable price of 50 cents apiece. After spending a grand total of $2.50, we settled in our seats for the show.
After a few minutes, the show began. It was a delightful musical with a cast of about 15 students. The props were well-made, the script was well-written and the performance featured extremely talented young men and ladies that kept me laughing the whole time.
The best scene was Born to Hand Jive and included a high energy dance scene with great choreography and a cameo appearance from the Towers High marching band. The performance wrapped up with cheers for all the cast members.
Then the guest of honor was introduced, Tommy Ford, best known for his character “Tommy” in the syndicated FOX sitcom Martin. He came to the stage and gave a motivational speech directed to the cast of students. Here’s the sad part….when I turned around from my seat in the fourth row (the first two rows were kept clear for the performance), I saw a sea of empty seats. If there were 100 people in the whole auditorium, it would surprise me.
At this point, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming to my eyes. There was such an incredible energy and talent present in this room, yet no one in the community cared enough to come see it. I’m guessing that 90% of the audience was the family members of the student actors and actresses.
My kids and I stood and walked out of the auditorium. As we left, I heard shouting. In the lobby were ten to twenty teens running and charging at each other. I watched them for a moment, trying to decide if they were playing or fighting. I pushed my children out the front door. The scuffle followed us as a group of students formed, punching and running at each other. All bets were off…males charged at females, and vice versa. I looked at the children in the scuffle, one by one. None of them were in the auditorium during the performance.
My tears are for the cast of this show, the few students that are flourishing despite the bleak conditions that surround them. They are the best of DCSS. They don’t deserve what they are getting. They are getting the worst of DCSS. This is the very reason that I get up an hour earlier than my neighbors and drive my children to a public charter school. Wake up, citizens of DeKalb! You may think that because this is not your neighborhood, this is not your problem. The same children that were fighting in and in front of the school will grow up and leave, and they may end up in your neighborhood next.
*Update: As a poster pointed out in the comments below, this was interpreted to mean that we don’t need teachers. That is the farthest thing from the truth. The blog has always and will always put our #1 value on the teacher in the classroom. That is what is meant by focusing on the student. We apologize for the lack of clarity. We want everyone to rest assured that when we say “adults” we mean those who do not have direct contact with students. Most are expendable in our opinion. Quality teachers are the only employees who make a critical difference in the life of a child.