New crew needs chance to make Allendale sail

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Sometimes tough decisions have to be made in order to bring about a positive change.

Such is the case earlier this week when State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman declared a “State of Emergency” in the Allendale County School District.

It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was a necessary one, she said, after thinking about what is in the best interest of the district’s students.

We concur.

While many parents seem ready for a change, as evidenced by a community meeting with Spearman two weeks ago, not everyone is thrilled about the decision to take over the district.

Regardless of one’s personal opinion about the situation, we believe the state should be given the opportunity to work on the problems without local opposition.

For example, the best way to save a drowning person is to throw a floatable device and assist them to safe haven. If you try to personally save them, they can drown you both by pushing you down under as they try to claw to the top.

The state is trying to save Allendale but will be severely hampered if Allendale County’s school and district leadership are not willing to help save their children while clawing for political power.

Improving academic achievement, which is the root of the problem, isn’t as simple as just throwing the life ring of more money at the problem. With the district already receiving approximately $17,000 per student - well over any average for most districts - it’s clear that money isn’t the answer.

The district needs guidance and leadership that will provide initiatives, resources and advice on how best to move forward.

While we are not pointing fingers at the current board or anyone else, it’s obvious to everyone that the previous way of doing things isn’t working. Just look at the data as more students are not meeting the state’s (and our) expectations than are other students statewide.

That’s simply unacceptable.

We should want better for the students.

Is the State Department of Education perfect?

No.

Do they have all the answers?

No.

However, they helped the district improve the last time it was taken over (1999-2007).

Unfortunately, things have not improved in the decade since the state handed the helm back to local control.

The Allendale County School District is now to a point where it’s considered one of the worst in the state. Three of the district’s four schools are currently named “priority schools”. It is a sinking ship.

The problem was there was nothing to sustain the growth and positive changes that were made once the state handed the wheelhouse back to the local board. Spearman acknowledged that issue, but said they have learned a lot since the last takeover. She promised she wants to implement a long-term fix.

The students of Allendale County need a lighthouse, not a flashlight in a storm, to guide their way. They need courageous and tempered leaderhip on board. They need a crew working together as a new compass point is set.

We strenuously encourage the board and local stakeholders, including parents, business owners and community leaders, to spend their time, money and resources to work with the state rather than against it.

This is not a time for local politics and personal agendas to create stormy seas. Instead, we all should be focused on bringing about the success of Allendale County’s children to guide them into the future.

If they succeed, then our community, state and nation can succeed.

It won’t be easy to turn this ship around but we think it can be done.

We know this is possible because there are bright and talented students in Allendale County. They just need a chance.

With this takeover, there is a new commadore at the helm. An experienced captain - Walter Tobin - has been brought aboard. It is time to give State Superintendent Molly Spearman and her staff a chance to improve the situation in Allendale County’s schools.

We wish you all success as a new compass point is set.