Our opinion: Let's learn our lessons from New Hope

May 13, 2011 10:37:00 AM



What''s in the water in New Hope? 


The unincorporated community east of Columbus in Lowndes County has had its share of controversy in recent weeks. Last week, a woman was arrested on two counts of statutory rape after two New Hope High School students were turned over to her during the school day -- one of whom she wasn''t authorized to check out. This appears to be an egregious and unforgivable breach of campus security. 


This week, a teacher at the school, Katherine Robbins, was indicted by a Lowndes County grand jury for sexual battery on a student. The married mother of two allegedly had a consensual relationship with the student, but was found to have abused her position of authority over the student. 


These incidents come on the heels of a 10-year-old New Hope Elementary student caught with a gun (albeit unloaded) at the school. 


We have an ex-New Hope High principal, Lynn Wright, running for district superintendent. Wright was fired, over the improper purchase of a lawnmower, by the school district he now wants to lead. (Wright is suing the district and maintains he did nothing wrong.) Wright was caught up in the tempest surrounding popular New Hope High baseball coach Stacy Hester''s removal as coach. (He''s also suing the district.) 


Are these incidents and legal episodes part of a larger pattern? Have administrators lost control of the New Hope schools? 


We think not. While these are terrible occurrences, they happen everywhere. And, we''d point out that New Hope has its share of positives to mix in with these negatives.  


New Hope''s perennially strong baseball program advanced to the state playoffs again this year, falling just short of a bid for the title game. The high school boys golf team won a state title just this week. And, we shouldn''t forget that the New Hope schools are the most diverse in the county, and boast some of the highest academic ratings of any of our public schools. 


This is indeed gut-check time for parents, teachers and school administrators in New Hope. The criminal cases are indeed very serious, if the accused parties are proven guilty. Now, more than ever, administrators to get out of their offices and into the halls where they can get a better sense of what is going on in their schools. They also need to redouble their efforts to keep parents informed about what''s happening on school campuses. A new superintendent, who will be elected by voters in November, should make these issues a top priority. 


And, parents need to stay involved with their children and their schools. Demand accountability from school leaders -- and from your own children. 


New Hope is experiencing some serious, tragic bumps in the road -- incidents that can, and do, happen at many schools.  


New Hope will get past these incidents, but a larger tragedy would be for us to not learn from them.