Schools welcome congressional visitor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 20, 2006

Although the U.S. Congress is in a recess period, it was a busy day in Marengo County for U.S. Congressman Artur Davis and his entourage as they traveled from Demopolis to Linden for Marengo Educational Day.

As part of his plan to have a regular presence in all of his counties in District 7, especially the rural areas, Davis traveled the western Black Belt to spend time answering questions of his younger constituents and encouraging them to respect their family, friends and everyone they come in contact with.

The congressman’s first stop was to Westside Elementary School where he was welcomed by two students, Natalie Saliba and Maddie Griggers, holding a “Welcome Congressman Davis” sign and made a late “Read Across America Day” appearance to a selection of K-2 students.

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“They were so persistent in asking me to come that when I finally had the opportunity, I made sure I was able to do it,” Davis said, “I want the schools and community to realize I am proud of what public education is doing in Marengo County and this shows that our public education system is working.”

Westside Elementary kindergarten teacher has been trying to get Davis, D-District 7, to visit her school for the past three years.

“It’s good for the children to see men of his distinction. I wanted them to see some prominent figures come in to read to them. They listen to us read everyday,” she laughed, “but this is a very important day to us. We are delighted that he came.”

While reading “My Very Big Little World,” Davis expressed the importance of about a loving family, what they can do for you and what you can do for your family.

But Davis’ visit to Demopolis High School, wasn’t as family-oriented as his first stop.

After a heartfelt story of a Marengo County deployment, Davis stressed the point that the Black Belt “knows how to make soldiers, so be proud of where you came from.”

“Don’t let anyone question your values or what you’ve learned where you came from,” he told the DHS leadership group. “Something good is happening in this part of the state.”

The Congressman also told students to respect all people, even if they don’t have the same background or education, then the hard-hitting questions came.

“What do you think about Bush wire-tapping and bugging phone lines?” one student asked.

To which, Davis responded that he didn’t want to get too deep into politics, but there are checks and balances in the government and each branch needs to know certain information.

Another question about gas prices was asked, to which Davis responded, “the prices have gone up traumatically and it’s going to get worse. We are too independent on foreign oil and most of the countries we get it from don’t like us. We use energy more in this country than anyone else and we use it when we don’t need to. We have to be smarter as an economy.”

During his vists at both schools, Davis presented principals Mary Glass and Isaac Espy with flags from local VFW members that had flown over the capital in Washington, D.C.

Next, Davis met with educational leaders in Linden and four members of the Linden Student Council.

“Without thinking, we have built a community where students will go to college, be successful and realize their dream,” Davis told Marengo County Commissioner Freddie Armstead, Linden superintendent Walter Davis, and LHS principal Timothy Thurman, “They have no limit on where they want to go in life. We are just trying to figure out how to keep them here in Marengo County.”

Davis also expressed his thoughts on the “No Child Left Behind” Act to attendees.

“In a few years, we will begin to look at the ‘No Child Left Behind’ Act to see what changes we need to make. Part of it’s good – like measuring the students and the schools to see where they are and putting standards in place,” he said. “But public education has not been transformed in the last five years. There have been no dramatic improvements in our students and none in our faculty. We have to look at what it takes to close the gap in the system.”

The Act also penalizes schools which don’t reach its standards and Davis believes the government currently spends more time punishing those schools rather than elevating them.

In reference to a question about the local economy, Davis suggested making use of what the county already has, instead of waiting for new industries.

“The causes of a thriving community is not just getting a new plant or industry,” he said, “it’s having a physical infrastructure in place, having a basic sense of the value of life, and a good education system.”

The latter which depends on diminishing the number of negligent families in the regions, Davis said.

During is his visit to Linden Elementary, principal Wanda Fisher and George P. Austin principal Terry Gosa showed Davis the new outdoor facilities they are building after receiving a 21st Century $600,000 grant over the course of three years.

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“It’s always important to show students, teachers and principals that you are aware of what they are doing,” he said, “When you are always in session, it’s easy to lose perspective, so I try to make sure there’s always time to have regular conversations with my constituents. It keeps us exposed to their ideas and their viewpoints.”