In an Education Setting, Success Breeds Success

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 31, 2005

For the most part I pack this column with my free-wheeling notions of education and how it should be; that is to say, it is usually a small treatise on the philosophy of education, with a healthy dose of my own pontifical blusterings.

So it is a fresh breeze that flows with this missive.

You see, I am going to focus on a phenomenon which has been embodied in the performances of Demopolis’ City Schools.

Not only did the High School win both the Football and Baseball State 4A Championships, but the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) has evaluated the Demopolis City School System and has declared it “Superior”!

All that in the span of barely six months!

What elements come together to yield such success?

Why do students who are happy performing well in the classroom have the uncanny ability to transfer that kind of happiness to the arenas of athletic competition?

And just how is all this established, maintained, and propagated?

To answer these questions we need to examine four foundational pillars which serve as the underpinnings of such success:

1.Personnel stability;

2.Administrative continuity;

3.A practical and relevant curriculum; and,

3.Community support.

Before we examine these three elements, it is crucial to note that students are far more perceptive than we often believe.

They miss nothing.

If there is apathy within the staff, students have a built-in barometer to immediately detect it and within their ranks a kind of malaise begins to creep in and become all pervasive.

Likewise, if there is enthusiasm within the staff, students pick up on it, expand it exponentially, and produce in a positive fashion.

In short, students “sense” the unspoken emotional atmosphere which is set within each school, and within each school system.

They know when a school bond for much needed building improvements is not passed, and they respond in kind with indifference toward everything else in the system.

They know they have been rejected and that often professed pledges to better education are merely lip service.

Then, too, they know when they cannot complete their class work because of a lack of textbooks that it is just another societal miff toward education.

Soon, their rejection manifests itself in anti-social behavior, and no wonder.

They hear “words” and more “words” about the need for better education.

And they see that they are hearing the beginning and the ending of those “commitments” in the empty “words”.

Their anti-social behavior turns to antipathy and the continuing downward spiral of anti-education sentiment finds a wider base from which to spread its destructive rhetoric and behavior.

In this scenario, students become the losers in the system – and the victims!

Conversely, here in Demopolis we see the four pillars strengthened everyday by every member of the Public School System.

First, there is very little staff turnover.

What this means is that people can begin a new school year with the confidence that the other staff members will be there and that they are to be trusted.

They become acclimated to each others’ approaches and learn how to complement each others’ methods.

This makes for a very stable environment – and a very comfortable feeling amongst students.

Second, Demopolis has established an administrative continuity and cohesion which sets the tone and tenor for the entire system.

The building principals have a very collegial, yet professional, relationship with each other and with our Superintendent, Dr. Wesley Hill.

This administrative solidarity indicates a given respect between all of them.

Third, the curriculum is one of the many bright spots in our Demopolis City Schools.

Not a single lesson plan develops without having been fully explored and examined.

Contemporary technology is no stranger to our students either.

Teachers routinely use power point presentations in their classes, beginning in the elementary school.

The education our students receive is, as SACS reports, “superior” owing primarily to a well-planned and well-executed curriculum.

Finally, there is no slighting the tremendous community support Demopolis exhibits towards its schools and their events.

Witness the public participation in any activity at any of the schools.

Witness the Demopolis City Schools Foundation and all that it does to promote and promulgate educational support.

Witness the various organizational support groups parents have formed to make certain that the activities our students engage provide meaningful and productive results.

Finally, witness the smiles on the faces of the proud students as they progress through our school system and move on to take places in their chosen fields of endeavor.

Anytime we see such success we cannot deny the fundamental reality that someone is doing something extremely well and extremely right!

And it all can be summed up in the four pillars – stability, continuity, curriculum, and support.

How many years have Coach Goodwin and Coach Moody and their staffs been together in Demopolis?

How many years have Dr. Wesley Hill, Mr. Ron Roberts, Dr. Tony Speegle, and Mr. Clarence Jackson been together?

Take a close look at that one pillar and the story begins to unfold, for there is where the bedrock of Demopolis’ Schools’ success lies.

The students sense it.

The parents know it.

And the community supports it.

So, in my humble estimation (really, I don’t want to be humble because this kind of success breeds unbridled pride) we are very fortunate here in Demopolis.

We have a school system which not only works well, but can very well serve as a model for others.

Still, I am reminded of an adage one of my ancient coaches kept repeating after we had achieved something monumental – “The only reward for doing a good job is the opportunity to repeat it.”

And repeat it, we shall!