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Our View: From failing schools come failing communities




Every year at this time, the Mississippi Department of Education releases its "report cards" for schools and school districts throughout the state.  


This, year, the Columbus Municipal School District's grade came in with a "D" grade, which is classified as under-performing, continuing a trend we have seen for a half-dozen years. 


While there were individual school improvements (Columbus High improved to a "B" from a "D") and declines (Franklin Academy and Cook Elementary saw their scores fall to "Fs" from "Ds"), the overall picture is that of a school system entrenched in mediocrity. 


We understand that moving a school district from a state of inertia to progress demands time and with it, patience. We also understand that, in many respects, the stakes are so high with these scores that the accountability process often takes precedence over what should be the mission of all schools -- the actual teaching. When the perception is that "everything" is at stake with accountability tests, "everything" else takes a back seat. 


Every year, we ponder these same situations. And every year, it seems, we debate "the" solution. 


Perhaps that, too, is part of the problem.  


What if we considered an unhealthy school system in the same way we considered an unhealthy person? 


When a person makes a vow to "get healthy," he or she understands that no one change will produce the desired results. A person who changes his diet, but does not exercise, will see little progress. Likewise, all the diet and exercise in the world is futile if that person persists in other unhealthy choices, sleeping too little, smoking or drinking too much. 


And even a person who is committed to all those necessary steps can see those efforts undermined by a lack of support. It is easy to become disillusioned, especially in those critical early steps when the results are not immediately evident. When your own family gives up on your efforts, the will to continue weakens. 


That person understands the path to health is long and is rightfully suspicious of those "miracle cures" that offer all the benefits without the "pain" of committing to a long and difficult commitment. 


It's sure to be a long, hard journey, one that requires any number of changes. 


It's difficult to over-emphasize the importance of community support. 


For myriad reasons, that has all but disappeared. 


Let's be clear: Every single person in our community is significantly impacted by the performance of our schools, either directly or indirectly. 


Where schools thrive, the community thrives. When schools struggle, you see the evidence throughout the community, too. 


If we are to ever get our schools moving in the right direction, it will take all of us playing our part. That goes beyond finger pointing. It means uniting to address what we believe has emerged as a public health issue. 


If an epidemic descended upon our community, all of us would consider it an urgent matter and do our part. 


Is that not the same approach we should take with our schools? 


Where are the voices of those in our community who occupy positions of power and influence? 


Will they fight for our schools? 


If not, we know what the result will be. We've been seeing it for years now.



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