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Im so excited
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Hey, I’m excited! Have you heard of three fantastic things happening right here in our neck of the woods? They have such potential for improving life that if you’d tried a month ago to tell me they could happen here, I’d have called you a liar.

These events exemplify what happens when people stop wringing their hands and bemoaning the sorry state of affairs which have befallen us and instead start working to make things better. And whether the world sits up and takes notice or not, we’ll all benefit from the ripple effect.

First was the orchestration of the “Sophomore Spirit Excellence in Leadership Forum,” coordinated by the local Covington Women’s Club Service Guild. Local civic leaders, governmental officials and business people joined students from the three Newton County public high schools and three private academies at Covington’s First United Methodist Church.

The local luminaries shared expertise and wisdom they’d gained from life experience in the real world. Austin Aldridge, Marietta First Baptist youth pastor, facilitated an interaction time and the day-long event which promoted leadership skills among high school students featured a mock trial presided over by Judge Sammy Ozburn.
The second great thing happening here involves that good judge. Among the dozen or so remarkable folks I personally admire, there is none finer than Sammy Ozburn. It’s my greatest hope that his nomination to Georgia’s Supreme Court gets careful, studied consideration, for Sammy is a living, breathing testimonial to the best qualities found in humanity.

The third event I’d like to mention requires a preamble, for which I ask your indulgence.

The last time I was ever excited about anything at all at Newton High School was graduation day 1997. As my oldest daughter received her diploma, it hit me that I’d never have to fight traffic on Brown Bridge Road again. And that was 12 years ago-- today the still two-lane Brown Bridge Road should be a divided highway, featuring dedicated exit ramps solely for the schools in western Newton County.

That being said, I got excited about Newton High again this week when I learned of the proposed “school within a school” to be located at NHS. The Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High School, partnering with Oxford College of Emory University — with no added cost to taxpayers — is most likely the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread.

I’m mentioning this because the day after tomorrow, Tuesday, March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day, the Newton County Board of Education meets at 7 p.m. to vote on this venture. I’m asking you to contact your board member and voice your support for this incredible proposal.

Why am I so excited?

Because the key to having schools that actually work, the key to virtually every last thing making for efficient government, and the key to restoring America’s prosperity and security comes down to this: local control.

This is local control at its finest! Our school system is taking a quantum leap forward, and every last person in our community will benefit from it.

This partnership between our public school system and one of the greatest universities in the South — Emory — is a perfect example of raising the academic bar. Kids will have to adhere to higher standards, as will parents, teachers and administrators. Even the kids in the school who are not part of the Academy will do better, just by osmosis.

And consider this: parents of kids in the Academy will be required to participate in what equates, roughly, to a booster club for academics — PASS, Parents Assuring School Success. That’s right — participation by parents in their kid’s schooling will be mandatory, not voluntary.

What a concept! Parents actually parenting! Parents actually taking part in their kid’s lives and educations!

I know, I know. I can visualize several hundred teachers out there shaking their heads and wishing more than a dozen parents would attend their school’s PTA meetings.

But — hey! This is a positive thing! Even with a million details to work out! NHS is also undertaking a Chinese fire drill transitioning from the traditional academic day to the block schedule next fall. So there will be a myriad of adjustments, any one of which will be enough to cause more than a little angst.

But it’ll be worth it, folks, it’ll be worth it!

This academic thing might actually catch on! Kids might discover that it’s “cool” to be educated, sophisticated, morally upright and to occupy a higher social plane than that which features gangs, drugs, “sexting” and the dregs of our society.

Who knows what might follow? A renewed emphasis on the performing arts: music, theatre, dance, art, sculpture?

Hey, I’m excited! Enough to renew my social studies certification! I mean, doggone it! I might even point the nose of the old Jeep out Brown Bridge Road for a drive!

Nat Harwell is a resident of Newton County. His column appears in The Covington News on Sundays.