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For the past nine years, since my return from Maryland to my roots in Lancaster, I have been passionate about the educational needs of all children in Lancaster County. Especially the needs of at-risk youth, who based on school performance data, are not being met.
I have fought hard over the years, often being misunderstood as a radical, to work with the past and present Lancaster County school board and administration to improve our school district. It is in my opinion that the past and present leadership have not collectively done an effective job in developing creative and innovative solutions to bring our schools on target to meeting AYP standards set forth by the state and No Child Left Behind Act.
The school board nor community can continue to maintain the mindset of “We can’t save them (children) all.” We cannot continue to rapidly expel youth with behavior issues, nor continue to use high school certificates as a way to appease poor student performance. We must develop effective strategies and partnerships with different agencies that will enable all children to be successful. The current mindset is too costly to the school district, community and its citizens.
I believe that the school board and the community must adopt what I see as the firefighter’s mentality. The firefighter sees a burning house with a family in it and while in some cases he may believe that the fire is so far gone until he knows that he won’t be able to save everyone. However, he still prepares himself mentally and physically to go in for the rescue. He, along with his fellow firefighters, develop a strategy to go into the dangerous flames to attempt to save everyone. He understands that such a rescue is risky and dangerous. In the forefront of his mind is his passion for saving lives and keeping his community safe.
The school board and school administration, in my opinion, has not done an effective job in communicating to the all segments of the community the current and future vision of the school district nor its internal condition.
While the outward appearance of our schools look beautiful, inside the walls, the 2008 Kids Count and Annual School Report Card reveal that there remains much work to be done. Effective teacher retention and employee salaries are still key issues that must be addressed. We still have more than 30 percent of our students dropping out of high school. Our school district improvement rating has risen from unsatisfactory to below average. We still have schools that fail to consistently maintain an improvement rating of average or above on the Annual School Report Card. We still have an average of 30 percent of students who are scoring below average on the PACT. These percentages are greater for African-Americans and other students.
We must all do our individual and collective part if we want to raise the literacy level, reduce gang involvement, enhance economic development and raise the academic and social standards for our youth.
We cannot continue nor afford to use the excuse that South Carolina standards are too high in comparison to other states. Our standards must now be extremely high because we have for so long as a state and community allowed them to be low.
Les Brown says it best when he says, “No one rises to low expectations.” We must make the grade. I have always believed that if you are not a part of the solution you are a part of the problem. I am running because I want to further my efforts in being a part of the solution.
You may ask why the residents of District 4 should vote for me. I have the knowledge, vision, insight, passion, networking and relationship-building skills to assist the members of the school board and the school administration in shaping policies and developing strategies and partnerships that will enable our schools to make the grade set forth by the community, state and No Child Left Behind.
I am ready to put on my fireman’s gear, along with the members of the school board, and go into our burning school houses and communities to save every child that we can.