By Andrew Lewis –
On a recent trip to Valdosta, I witnessed a community torn apart over the educational system, no differently than so many other communities big and small across our nation. While there are numerous reasons why communities like Valdosta and Lowndes County struggle with their schools, the common theme is that far too many children are falling through the cracks. I see this not as a community failure, but as a societal one — a failure that requires many solutions.
Last week, as part of an effort to introduce charter public schools to any interested citizen in Lowndes County, my colleague and I had the unique opportunity to present to numerous educational leaders from Valdosta City Schools, Lowndes County Schools and the general public. While many of the professional educators in the room voiced individual concerns, their questions were sincere. But so were the answers.
The discussion highlighted the how community-led charter public schools, when done right, can be one additional tool in the educational tool belt.
A small few of the professional educators used the informational session to attempt to discredit charter public schools as a true reform model, resorting to mischaracterization of the movement and our intentions to provide a meaningful dialog.
These individuals questioned the possibility of your community starting and leading a successful charter public school. Their view appeared to be based on the idea that public K-12 education is the responsibility of the school district alone.
Others in the room obviously felt differently.
Where you find successful, community-led charter public schools, you find strong governing boards that understand the responsibility of school governance. You find engaged community members who passionately believe that parents deserve quality options in public K-12 education.
I know that there are those in your community — teachers, professors, doctors, lawyers, and clergy — who have the necessary skills to govern an incredibly successful public charter school. I know that there are parents who not only want a quality option in K-12 education — they believe their children deserve it.
It is my hope that we can come back to your community to explore the possibilities. This discussion is too important to ignore.
Andrew Lewis is Executive Vice President of the Georgia Charter Schools Association and a former DeKalb County public school teacher