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Letter: The failure of school leadership

To the editor,

Not long ago I attended a tribunal at the Newton County education headquarters.  I was there to support a young man who made a mistake. The background of this young man’s problem is not my focus. My focus is clearly pointed at makeup of Eastside High School leadership. I witnessed an assistant principal ignore a student that's within his care. Often, we are disappointed in our young men and women decisions as they work their way through 12 years of education. As leaders and professionals, the community expect those in charge to produce answers in the development of our students in Newton County. At this tribunal the student and his mother arrived at least 15 minutes early. The assistant principal arrived shortly after. The assistant principal did not acknowledge the student or offer to advise him or his mother during this terrible situation. The assistant principal greeted everyone else who entered the building with a smile and handshake while pointedly ignoring the very person for whom he advocates.

Within the education process, leadership priorities reflect the success of every teacher and student. When leadership fail the community, we see this failure through the performance of the teachers and students. When school leadership decides to reach positive outcomes by maligning students the teachers will follow and students will underperform. How would you feel if your doctor ignored you before a vital surgery or your lawyer tells you I will represent you, but I can't help you avoid an unfavorable outcome? As an adult, we would fire these representatives and search for someone who cares about the outcome. Eastside leadership needs reshaping. The majority of students shipped off to alternative schools by being expelled from Eastside are black. Some people believe these students are inherently troubled and unable to learn. Unfortunately, some of these people with negative thoughts about minority students are principals and assistant principals. The leadership is not there to solve problems, they are there to erase them. The tools our leaders in the school system use are special education and extreme punishment. Newton County Schools’ success is based on test scores and similar variables. Leadership use the aforementioned special education and extreme punishment techniques to eliminate problem students in order to increase the school performance scores.

Effective leadership focuses on factors that improves school and student success. It appears Eastside High School is in the business of eliminating problem students and managing students with fear. As a community our young people enter the workforce with low expectation of themselves and fear of the future. Newton County must do better! Our community needs young people that the community believes in for a prosperous future of Newton County. Our county has many jobs coming that will bolster the future of our young men and women for many years. Right now it appears that these future jobs will go to people whom are not native to our community. Workers will be from other states and perhaps other countries. We must demand more from the leaders of our schools.

Teaching must be considered a profession in which leadership is shared from leadership to educator and educator to leadership. If a teacher's discipline history on a particular student does not reflect an extreme problem student the principle should trust his/hers teachers. The leadership staff should reflect the population of the students. If a school is 50 percent black, but leadership is dominated by other groups the ability to relate to the Black population is greatly reduced. Everyone in the school should be involved in decision making in order to improve a school production of young ready to work citizens.

Gene Wills,