Breaking from the agenda of the first annual Valdosta-Lowndes Governmental Leadership Meeting, Valdosta School Superintendent Bill Cason rose above tactics and talked about vision and the root of the matter: poverty.
Supt. Cason started talking about teenage pregnancy and drug use, and then got to the heart of the matter:
They come to school hungry; they come to school homeless. Last year we identified more than 200 homeless kids in our school district. We can talk about all of these other things, but until we can address those as a group, every public entity in this room, is willing to get together as a team and address those issues, we forgot the most important thing we deal with, that is our students.
They will be the future leaders of this community. And if you want to see Valdosta take a backwards slide, then let this problem run as it is and you will see. I’ve seen it before in other communities, and I’m seeing it here now. This is not something we can wait on; it has to be done now. So if we want to really be serious about what we’re talking about tonight, educating our children, having a viable community, having a good community, having recreational facilities everybody can use, then you need to begin to address these problems not only with our mouths, but with our money and with our resources. And until you do this, then we’re going backwards.
Poverty is the root of the matter. It’s great that the local goverments and school boards are talking, and they can tinker around the edges all they want, but until they get serious about poverty in our community, educational improvements and the future of the community will be severely limited.