08/12/09 — A smart assist: Graduation coach will help, but parents need to be in the game

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A smart assist: Graduation coach will help, but parents need to be in the game

Goldsboro High School has a graduation coach -- or at least is well on its way to adding such a position in the coming year.

And that is good news, especially for the many children who might have a chance at a future because of the guidance that this individual might provide.

But before you sound the trumpets and declare the school's graduation rate problem solved, here's a thought.

It really isn't about the coach.
The reason why is simple: There is only one of them, and he or she will not be returning home with the children at night -- to make sure they do their homework and to make sure they get the sleep and supervision they need.

He or she cannot undo peer influence and walk home with each child at night to make sure he or she does not encounter a drug dealer or some other criminal element.

He or she cannot make sure each child has a proper place to live and plenty of food to eat -- let alone a role model or two who can convince him or her that education is the way to go.

That is something a coach -- no matter how talented -- cannot do for even one child, let alone the 50 who could very well be under his or her charge.

Providing a graduation coach at Goldsboro High is a good step -- a chance for the county commissioners to show that they are serious, that they are willing to invest money in improving the schools in this community.

So, the effort itself is to be lauded -- and encouraged to continue.

By the same token, dealing with the issues that plague this county's educational system -- and many like it across the state -- requires more, not less, community involvement; creative minds, not the same old answers; and a realization that it won't get any better unless we are all, all in.

Saving children and getting them to understand the importance of an education to their future is a critical part of not just achieving state standards, but creating a generation that has a chance at having happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.

We lose too many children to the world of drugs, teenage pregnancy, crime and other pursuits that end in tragedy and jail.

But if we are going to start dealing with the problem, we have to acknowledge the reality of what life is like for a poor child in this and any other community -- and that means acknowledging the role poor parenting plays in their development.

Yes, it matters where they live and who their parents are. Yes, a child who lives in a housing project is in more danger than one who lives in a clean, quiet neighborhood. And yes, a child who comes from a home where the parent sees welfare as a career goal is going to face a tougher climb than others who are encouraged to see something more for their lives. Yes, environment matters. Yes, eight hours of school a day cannot undo summers and weekends of bad influence. Yes, there will be a lot that we cannot control about the lives of the at-risk children we would like to save.

Acknowledging all that is the first step. Changing it is a much more difficult task.

So, for now, we will add a graduation coach for Goldsboro High -- and we should consider finding funding for several more, one for every school where fewer than 80 percent of the students head on to post-high school technical training or college.

But we have to understand that this is just a drop in the bucket -- a start.

And in the future, we must see that a problem like this does not get solved by rosy speeches and a flurry of dollars thrown at it.

We will change our children's futures when we insist that their parents take responsibility for their care -- and enforce severe consequences on those who don't. We will improve classrooms when we refuse to allow children to pass who cannot read, and we support the teachers and administrators who must keep order, teach basic social skills and make sure the lessons are learned, all while watching for those children who are at-risk or in danger.

And we will take a big step forward when we join as a community and take a stand to really leave no child left behind -- and mean it -- no matter what kind of tough love and even tougher enforcement of basic standards that goal requires.

Published in Editorials on August 12, 2009 10:07 AM