Perception (from the Latin perceptio, percipio) is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of the environment by organizing and interpreting sensory informationI have sat on the sideline for a while on the issue of consolidation. Perhaps I am still on the sideline since I am not going to tell you how to vote. Regardless of the decision on November 8th I will continue to support education in one or two systems. In any event I feel compelled to at least provide some words for consideration. Here is my perspective from the sideline.
It is very apparent that we have pride in our schools. Pride is both
powerful and destructive. In the Bible it is one of the deadly sins. We need to set aside our pride and be humble as we make our decision and do what is best for our kids and our community when we vote – “Yes” or “No”.Hm, he doesn’t want to say whether you should vote yes or no. What does that remind me of? Ah, yes, Jeana Beeland explaining why she was going to vote against the Valdosta School Board’s statement opposing consolidation. As I said to her afterwards, I don’t know whether that was brave or foolhardy, but I did want to compliment her on saying what she meant and being willing to actually put her vote where her mouth was. She didn’t pretend to be on the sideline.
It takes a good bit of planning, time, and energy to effectively consolidate anything, whether it is a school, hospital, or business. It takes hard work. Consolidation of any entity rarely comes from within the organization, but from the outside or the top – the leadership. In this case from the citizens of Valdosta who happen to be Lowndes County citizens. The length of time it takes to consolidate two entities varies and is complicated and takes due diligence to even establish a plan. We have an opportunity to vote “Yes” or “No” and having a plan or not having a plan should have no bearing. It will take time, leadership, hard work, the community and coordination from both systems.
“Where is the Data?” A consistent echo in the community as if we are looking for results for the future, I guess something like an economic forecast. In fact I have asked for it myself. It is a tough thing to project the future as we can tell by our current economic condition. The real answer is we don’t know what will occur. That goes for both consolidation and for no consolidation. We will have to defer what will happen to the future. What is true is Troup County got KIA Motors nearly 15 years after consolidation. What will happen in Lowndes is up to us. We have an opportunity to vote “Yes” or “No” and to build our future based on that decision.
When I saw the shirts worn by many opponents of consolidation with the words “United We Stand”, I could not help but to think of the other part: “Divided We Fall”. It gave me a moment of reflection and I began thinking in a broader sense. It is not about our two schools, though our pride would say it is. It is not about our race, though our prejudices would say it is. It is not about our state’s ranking in education, but our competitiveness would say it is. It is not about our nation, but our patriotism would say it is. It is about a few simple things. It is about coming together as a community with a common focus. It is about helping our children to become the best educated they can be and establishing a learning culture. It is about improving who we are and how we are perceived, locally, in the state, and in the world. Americans are a minority in this world and we will not receive a handout if we fall. That goes equally for White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and all Americans.
We must come together with a focus to become the best. If you believe this is best done in two schools then vote “No”. If in one then vote “Yes”. But no matter which way you vote, be sure you understand that to become the best will take hard work. Make sure your view of the future is who we want to be and the perception we want to project.
Does that mean consolidation is our best interest or no consolidation is our best interest? And is this the right time to consolidate? I can’t answer either of these with 100% certainty so again, I am not going to tell you to vote “Yes” or “No” on November 8th. But I will say this opportunity to decide is rare and will not come about often and that the hard work required is part of any equation. And, I do know that our perception is our reality whether we accept it or not. We will decide how we are perceived today and in the future, plan or no plan, data or no data, focus or no focus, with pride or humility.