In the last 24 hours I have read two articles that paint something of a stark picture of Montgomery these days.
One is about Montgomery public schools in the Montgomery Business Journal, a publication of the Chamber of Commerce. Here we learn that “seven out of ten Montgomery voters blame the Board of Education for Montgomery’s failing school system.” The article goes into detail about comments of interim state superintendent Ed Richardson discussing the plight of the schools here.
We are told that at the chamber’s annual meeting last December, Richardson asked 700 business and community leaders, “Do you really want good public schools for Montgomery?” The article goes on to say: “Montgomery’s public schools are failing; they’re failing the students they exist to serve; they’re failing the city and its residents whose tax dollars fund them. And they’re negatively affecting the business community by stifling economic development efforts.”
The other article that made a big impression is this one in The Montgomery Advertiser about LaDonna Brendle, who became so concerned about the homeless and needy that ten years ago she left her career in accounting and started Reality and Truth Ministries.
In the grand scheme of things, Brendle has not moved mountains or started something that swept the country, but she has had a HUGE impact on those she has helped.
An old saying goes, “If you want a helping hand, there is one at the end of your arm.”
This was the approach LaDonna Brendle embraced. However, as I go from setting to setting in my school board campaign, I don’t sense that this is the way it is with this school system..
For example, when Ed Richardson asked that roomful of people if they wanted good schools, his follow up question should have been, “So what are YOU going to do to make this happen?”
There was once a time when communities and schools were practically one and the same. This was OUR community and these were OUR schools. But I rarely hear anyone mention “OUR schools” these days. Instead, we want someone else to fix things. IF we just had a new school board? IF we just had a new superintendent? IF the state intervention will work?
I have referred to David Mathews little book, Is There A Public For Public Schools? many times. It is all about the disconnect we now have between communities and schools. He says, “The public and the schools haven’t had a divorce, but they are definitely separated.”
He also says, “The only way for the community to be a better place to live is for the people of the community to understand and accept their personal responsibility for what happens.”
There are many examples of individuals and businesses helping our schools. A few days ago I was at a meeting where the PTA gave the principal a check for $25,000–and this was after having spent $58,000 on school improvements in the last year. That was at a magnet school. The story is far different for most of our non-magnets.
Too often we sit around waiting for Santa Claus to show up. But Santa Claus is not in Washington, and he ain’t in the state capital down on goat hill.
If Santa Claus is going to show up in Montgomery and make our schools better, then it is up to each of us to go find a red and white suit.