Schools’ impact goes far beyond students
Editor’s note: Salisbury/Rowan Retired School Personnel, of which Greta Connor is chair, submitted this essay upon a unanimous vote. It was signed by 22 members.
We, the members of the Salisbury/Rowan Retired School Personnel, are very proud of our community’s long history of excellence in education. We believe that we must all work together to continue this progress.
Our local public schools do not exist only for students and their parents. Schools exist for the good of society. We do not need to be a student or have a child to benefit from our public schools. We all benefit, therefore we all must support. Attorney General Roy Cooper recently stated, “We need a commitment to responsible and strategic investments in public education from pre-kindergarten through higher education. Raising teacher pay, rewarding good teachers and restoring their assistants, and investing in higher education are priorities that will help students now. And in the longer term, it will strengthen our economy.”
In 2009, the Knight Foundation Project polled 200,000 people from 26 American cities. This research showed a strong correlation between community satisfaction and the quality of schools. The better the schools the more people — even people without children in school — were satisfied with their community. School quality had a greater impact on community satisfaction than home ownership or job availability.
The quality of the lives of our citizens is tied to the success of our public schools. Our crime rates, workforce competency, tax revenues, even the desirability of people to relocate, all are connected to the quality of our public schools. Individuals personally benefit from quality public schools, but it is society that profits from the better informed citizenry and the skilled workforce produced by our public schools.
There is a contract between our community and its public schools. Our schools promise to teach each child — the rich and the poor, the disabled and gifted — and our community must promise to support these efforts. In 1785, founding father John Adams wrote, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole and be willing to bear the expense of it.” As citizens of Rowan County, we all have an obligation to support the Rowan Salisbury School System (RSSS).
In recent years school funding at the federal, state, and local levels has continued to decrease while the expectations for teacher performance and student achievement have been raised. In addition, the percentage of economically disadvantaged students in our local elementary schools has grown to more than 70 percent.
In spite of these impediments and increasing demands, the dedicated professionals in our schools, especially the classroom teachers, have continued to raise the achievement levels of our students. This success has been supported as staff members at the school and district level gained funding from federal grants and entities like the Robertson Foundation to generate the revenue needed to address the various needs of our students.
A close examination of data reveals several facts worthy of note:
• In 2013, 82.9 percent of RSSS students who started the ninth grade in 2009 had completed school in four years or less. This is higher than the state’s graduation rate.
• RSSS’s 2.91 percent dropout rate is not only the lowest rate in 11 years, but it is also lower than the state’s dropout rate of 3.01 percent.
• The Rowan Early College had a graduation rate of 100 percent.
• RSSS’s 2013 SAT test scores showed continued growth in overall performance.
In addition, these system-wide initiatives are utilized to promote achievement while also encouraging retention in school:
• A heavy focus on individual student attendance
• The district’s LINKS program (Learning, Intervention, Nurturing, Knowledge and Student Achievement) for at-risk students
• A STEM Academy to challenge students in science, technology, engineering, and math
• Remediation programs at all three levels
• Volunteer mentors and tutors provided by our faith-based initiatives, CIS, and individuals
• Henderson High School’s Federal Improvement Grant
• Course recovery at our high schools
• An alternative suspension program
Our local public schools are working. Teachers are doing their jobs with all the children, even as our changing society makes this task harder. Our public schools are open to all, and our teachers are helping children of all races, ethnicities and economic classes. So thank our teachers. Offer to volunteer or contribute to our schools. Elect representatives who believe in and support a strong public school system.
Our community cannot succeed if our public schools fail!