08/21/12 — Live and learn: Advice is nice, but what really makes schools thrive is involvement

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Live and learn: Advice is nice, but what really makes schools thrive is involvement

There is always lots of talk -- especially from those who have never set foot in a classroom -- as to what they see as the solution to the problems in the county schools.

It is funny how quickly they come to a conclusion and how sure they are that if they added their expertise to the mix, that would be the magic formula that turns D's to A's and dropouts to graduates.

Call it backseat educating if you will.

But the truth is, those who think they know exactly what it will take to make a difference actually do have the ability to make an immediate impact in Wayne County schools, if they are willing to put their time where their mouths are.

They do not need to get a crash course on school financing. They do not even need to sit down with the administrators who have to report on every program, regulation and requirement, to learn the ins and outs of that bureaucratic nightmare.

And they certainly do not need to appoint themselves as auditors of the county schools' budget.

They simply need to offer their time and energy in their schools.

If there ever was an example of what a little extra effort and a new perspective can do, it is the county's graduation coach programs. With a little individual attention and some extra hands keeping an eye on things like grades and graduation projects, there are more Wayne County students graduating. The programs at Southern Wayne High School, although that one is in its infancy, and at Goldsboro High are making a difference every day for students who need a little extra guidance they are not getting elsewhere and for teachers who find themselves with more than a few children who need an extra hand.

Not every child has a parent who is capable, has the time or wants to give him or her the guidance he or she needs to get through the maze of junior and senior high school. And there are simply not enough teachers to offer the individualized instruction so many people see as the key to improving student success. This program is giving them that edge.

So there can be a lot more yip yap about how there must be something the county is not doing to provide the best education for local students, and there will be a few more blowhards who think it is necessary for them to offer their unique insight into what the schools need and to tell seasoned veterans who are actually in the classroom what they need to improve upon.

Or perhaps they could volunteer themselves -- like the members of the Goldsboro Fire Department, who are running a mentorship program for local students, or the Goldsboro police officers who are working with the Explorers group. They are giving these young people a glimpse into possibilities for their lives, and succeeding in inspiring more than a few to make choices that will lead to positive outcomes.

And they are not alone, either. Volunteers visit the schools every day, offering reading time, homework help and all kinds of other assistance in changing the futures of some of the county's students.

That is what we need more of in Wayne County schools.

There are always ways to tweak an education system. And there probably are ways that money could be spent better or spots where programs are not as successful as they could be. But this is a first step with an immediate impact.

So, want to call for improving the schools? Instead of sitting in a meeting room pontificating, get out and organize a countywide volunteer program. Offer an hour a week and get into the schools to see what the real needs are.

Then, talk. It is a good possibility, there will be someone willing to listen.

Published in Editorials on August 21, 2012 11:02 AM