DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this blog are those solely of the author (that’s me) and are not shared by any parties listed below (at least I don’t think they do).
Those you who have been following my blogs have probably guessed that I am very passionate about education. Specifically, quality public education for all kids, regardless of their zip code, parents’ social/political affiliations, race, etc. Likewise, I believe that quality education should be provided, ‘By any means necessary.’ Whether it’s high-performing, neighborhood charter schools (not those magnet schools, located in affluent neighborhoods inaccessible to low-income students, disguised as charter schools) or a complete investigation and overhaul of the desegregation orders in some states, namely Georgia, to balance access to high-performing, 21st century schools. Sounds overwhelming, but I honestly believe that it will take something this radical to start on the road to repairing our public education system.
Enter politics. I have never been one to mince words, although I have been criticized for my directness-only since moving south though. I am fully aware that politics are necessary to get things done. I also know that sometimes, politicians can cause more harm than good when their personal agendas overshadow the issues at hand. Well, I got a little re-inspiration about the possibility of politics doing something good last night. I had the opportunity to speak with Brian Westlake, Democratic candidate for Georgia State Superintendent of Schools. The position is currently held by Cathy Cox, who is also running for re-election. I will admit that I didn’t expect to hear from Brian after I sent a rather lengthy and detailed email a few days ago (you all know how I do). Shame on me because he responded and invited me to call him so we could speak on the phone or meet in person. I sent Brian my phone number and he actually called me last night. I certainly did not expect to speak with him for over an hour! Not that the length of the conversation bothered me, it was just not what I expected based on my past interactions (or lack thereof) with politicians and other high-ranking officials. So far, Brian is 2-for-2. That’s pretty good considering the person he has to convince (me).
During the course of the hour, we discussed our backgrounds: Both of us have undergrad degrees in something other than Education and experienced some of the same ‘issues’ during our first years of teaching. We shared a lot of laughs last night. What is most impressive about Brian is that, despite opposition-both then and now, he is committed to making some changes in education within the state. He admits that the level of change necessary will not happen over night or even in the course of 1-2 years. The important thing to remember is that change is necessary and someone has to be the first one to take the steps in that direction, even at the cost of making some powerful and connected people uncomfortable. I haven’t been this excited about a politician since…well, President Obama. Honest. I had really lost faith in local politics, especially school boards and state education positions because frankly, they have been traditionally held by people who neither look like me, know or care about my concerns. Sure, Brian is not African American but he is young, has recent experience working with African American students, parents, and teachers. He now works at Berkmar High School in Gwinnett County, probably the most diverse school in terms of populations of international students.
There is a saying that alludes to the obvious: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten (or something like that). While millions of people turned out for the last presidential election, many of us (myself included) have forgotten about exacting ‘change’ on a local level. I am committing to change that this year. I have already told Brian that I plan to share his information and platform with the parent network I have established here in Gwinnett County for our Visual and Performing Arts charter school. I also have a large number of friends who are still teaching and still dealing with the same issues. If we are adamant about change, we must be as adamant about making it happen.
Let’s educate ourselves on those people who want to represent us and make a commitment to making our collective voices heard. The primary election is in July; the general election is in November. I will continue to share information on this race through Twitter and this blog. A change will come to Georgia’s education system. Will you be a do-er or an onlooker?