Education has impact on many county issues

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 1, 2007

By Tina Hall

For the Salisbury Post

Editor’s note: This is the text of a statement that County Commissioner Tina Hall presented at the commission’s Dec. 18 meeting.

In my opinion, somewhere over the the course of the past five years or so, our school system has lost its way. The focus became less and less on the instructional program and the children, and more and more on the buildings and appearances. The test scores slipped and slipped and finally plummeted.

It brings to mind the analogy to a frog that is dropped into a pan of water with slowly increasing temperatures. The frog adjusts to the temperature and doesn’t realize what is happening until it’s cooked.

Likewise, Rowan citizens were told not to worry about the test scores — the schools’ scores were not that bad.

What citizens were not told by school administrators for three straight years was that the school system itself did not make Adequate Yearly Progress, and sanctions could follow. Surprise, in 2006 it’s the fourth straight year of not making AYP. Now, we’re in hot water for sure, and the folks from Raleigh call the shots through assistance teams.

What if those in charge had been open and honest about the school system’s testing plight? What if their focus had been on the children and not some perceived image?

Why should the county commission be alarmed?

The children represent the future of Rowan County — our single most precious resource. Citizens look to the commission for many things, including education. The single largest slice of local tax dollars ($30 million) goes to fund education. Just from a business standpoint, we should expect acceptable results from such an investment.

Aside from the impact on the individual child, education affects many county issues.

For example, our high dropout rate influences the demand for: social services, health department, law enforcement, court system and others — and if a child is not reading on level by the time he leaves third grade, chances are he’ll drop out of high school.

As test scores drop, high school dropout numbers increase. Then, look for your taxes to go up to support the demand on county services. It’s far simpler to focus on each and every child and help them with the basics, keep them in high school, teach a trade — find a way to help them succeed in school.

Dr. Judy Grissom and her new staff are working feverishly to turn things around. Hopefully, they’ll produce results before the next testing cycle in May. If not, the state sanctions only get much worse.

One thing is sure: Either the school system makes sweeping changes or the state will make the changes for us. Pay now — or pay later — but pay we will.

I wish the best to the Board of Education and look forward to a joint meeting soon.