02/19/08 — New direction: Joint meetings continue, but so, too, must action

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New direction: Joint meetings continue, but so, too, must action

Progress.

It won’t be easy to define that word as the county commissioners and the school board move forward to try to find a common ground on providing facilities money and improved programs for Wayne County students.

But Monday’s meeting between the two boards is a positive — if not uneventful — step forward in the process of coming up with a way to pay the bills.

But what needs to get back in the discussion — and appeared in small glimpses this week — is a passion about doing something dramatic, quickly, to impact the futures of Wayne County students.

If, as County Manager Lee Smith told those gathered Monday, education is the commission’s top priority, more funding ideas and other positive measures regarding providing improved facilities and more money for programs should be on the board’s meeting agendas soon.

And the board of education should be ready with some ideas of its own — for new programs that, when funded, will help keep more children in school until graduation day. The commission has asked what it can do — and now it is time to come up with a list of what it would take to get those kind of results.

And, by the way, it is still not the commission’s job to run the schools. We need the county’s leaders to come up with a creative way to balance all the community’s budget needs.

Cooperation between the two entities is critical if Wayne County is going to have the kind of school system that performs at a high level and has the funding it needs to get the job done without bankrupting the taxpayers.

It really is going to be a case of “you get what you pay for” as this process goes forward.

Fixing schools requires a real understanding of what it takes to educate a child today. From parental disinterest and other outside influences to state and federal mandates that set standards without offering the funding to support them, school officials do not have it easy.

There will be no magic bullets or easy solutions. Speeches won’t fix anything. This is going to be hard work.

Soon, it will be time to enlist more community help, more ideas and more money. There will be plenty of places where private individuals can take an active role in supporting the schools and their students.

We will all have to be ready to step up when that time comes, if we truly want better schools.

In the meantime, it is our role to remind our leaders that this is important to us and that we expect not only continued civil discourse, but action to back it up.

Published in Editorials on February 19, 2008 11:37 AM