“With each new superintendent, hope springs eternal that someone will be found who can lead us to the Promised Land.

While only time will tell if there is a savior among us, whoever steps into the leadership role will face a much greater challege than a divided school board and taxpayer apathy.

He or she will become the chief administrator of a public school system that has lost one-fifth of its potential enrollees to non-public schools and of a student body that is largely dominated by children from single-parent families and low-income households.

These basic demographic factors are, within themselves, not conducive to raising standardized test scores, increasing graduation rates, or curbing violence in schools.  ….student demographics will continue to have a significant impact on what takes place in the classroom setting.

Public school enrollment has been declining gradually during much of the past decade  Non-public school students are predominately white, from higher income homes, and more likely to perform well on standardized tests, receive college and university scholarships, and generally excel in the classroom.  While not all the cream has been skimmed from the Montgomery public schools, there is not as much as there used to be.

The demographics of the black population are especially distressing.  While too many children–both white and black–reside in single parent families, are from low-income household, or are classified below the poverty level, these negative social and educational indicators occur much more frequently in the black community.

Such a high concentration of these characteristics in any population does not bode well for academic achievement and classroom success.  (A superintendent) can do little on an individual basis to ameliorate these deep-seated community problems.  Instead, it must be a cooperative effort, involving all sectors of the community.

Improvement will not come quickly or easily, but the need for a better educated, more highly informed populace cannot be ignored.”

No.  These are not my words.  They were written by my long time friend, Don Bogie, former director of the Center for Demographic and Cultural Research at AUM, AND PUBLISHED IN THE MONTGOMERY ADVERTISER ON JUNE 26, 1998.  ALMOST EXACTLY 20 YEARS AGO.

But they definitely echo my thoughts of just three days ago when I asked. “Can Montgomery Handle The Truth About Its Schools?”

Don’s article was passed long to me by my friend Wiley Cutts, who spent 17 years as principal at Lanier high school and 30 years in the Montgomery system.  And if anyone sees the irony in what I said last week and what Don said two decades ago, it would be Wiley.

As I read Don’s comments, it was impossible not to think of the tale of Rip Van Winkle who slept for 20 years in New York’s Catskill Mountains and missed the American Revolution.  Because just like ole Rip, Montgomery has been asleep for 20 years.

We’ve gone through a series of superintendents and school board members.  And today we are raising thousands of dollars to demean the 29,000 students, teachers and administrators and somehow deceiving good citizens into thinking this is PROGRESS.  We got involved with a state intervention directed by a state superintendent who was clueless about what needed to be done and “helped” a deficient financial situation by squandering money left and right.

Don Bogie was correct when he stated: (A superintendent) can do little on an individual basis to ameliorate these deep-seated community problems.  Instead, it must be a cooperative effort, involving all sectors of the community.

Improvement will not come quickly or easily, but the need for a better educated, more highly informed populace cannot be ignored.”

But unlike Rip Van Winkle, Montgomery refuses to wake up.