Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Legacy of Kathy Cox

From Brian Westlake candidate of State School Superintendent

This weekend I traveled to South Georgia and heard the needs of the parents and teachers of our rural communities. It was shocking to hear what is going on in many of our state's school systems.

I heard stories of bus routes that will be eliminated because of budget cuts. In one case, a school will no longer be able to pick up a child in the morning because he lives too far into the Okefenokee Swamp.

I listened to proud parents talk about how their child is excelling in the local 4-H program--only to fear that it won't be around next year.

Most troubling was the school closings. Not the prospect of such closings, but the actual shutting of the doors. I am speaking of the Ware County School of Agricultural, Forestry and Environmental Sciences, a magnet school that was named one of the nation's top performing schools in 2009 and is in the top ten for test scores in the state, but which will now be closed due to financial reasons. In 2007, firefighters fought back the flames of a forest fire trying to save this school. Now, just three years later, their efforts are lost, and the doors of that public school will be shut for good.

That local superintendents have to consider such decisions is a testament to just how damaging the years of cuts have been for our public school systems.

What I heard most often was confusion about the lack of leadership at the state level. "I don't understand what's going on. Why did Kathy Cox let it get to this point? She is doing nothing," said one Clinch County teacher.

School closings, teacher furloughs, and successful school programs being eliminated: this is the legacy of our current state school superintendent.

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