By Nancy Jester
My first weeks of service on the DeKalb Board of Education have included some unexpected challenges.
While I anticipated the complex matter of redistricting and consolidation, I did not foresee being snowed-in for a week. It was a good reminder for me that there will be many challenges and opportunities during my term – many of which will be unpredictable.
Clearly, the redistricting and consolidation process is the most significant topic for parents and communities throughout the district. I appreciate the many and varied viewpoints and ideas I’ve received from the community. I will continue to listen, examine the data and work cooperatively with all involved.
Even as we are deeply focused on the topic of redistricting, I am contemplating the long-term future of education in DeKalb.
We are all engaged in this social contract, agreeing to provide an education for the children of our county. Indeed, the success or failure of this public endeavor has far-reaching implications that ripple long into the future.
Our society has seen many long established and comforting traditions and institutions stumble as they meet with modernity. The children we educate today face an increasingly (and globally) competitive workplace. The same skills and paths needed to claim entry and stability within the middle class are substantially different than for past generations.
Our educational systems have struggled to adapt to the dynamic nature and specificity of skills that our children need to successfully navigate the modern opportunities before them. Further complicating these matters are the real constraints that shrinking budgets and increased mandates place on school systems.
I hope that my service will include collaboratively developing a vision for education in DeKalb that will have high expectations and rigorous standards joined with an efficient, consistent and exacting delivery model.
We must demand hard work and success from every participant. We must carefully examine the efficacy and necessity of all our expenditures. If something isn’t working, we must jettison it. It is easy to continue down the path that has grown comfortable beneath our feet. We must resist this inertia and challenge the traditional paradigms in order to develop the next successful vision for DeKalb.
It is easy to get mired in the status quo and be overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenges before us. Yes, we have many real structural and perceived impediments to success. I challenge everyone to believe that we can overcome these obstacles.
There are success stories to motivate our journey. I encourage everyone to read about the successes of the Baltimore City Public Schools. This system faced many of the same challenges that we see in DeKalb. Under new leadership, this district has made tremendous strides in improving its academic and fiscal health. Graduation rates and test scores have steadily improved while operations were streamlined.
Having attended the public work shop at Chamblee Charter High School, I was reminded of how many engaged and smart people care about our schools. Let’s harness that energy and fulfill our obligation to all of our children.
In closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from American business icon, Lee Iacocca: “In a completely rational society, the best of us would aspire to be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less, because passing civilization along from one generation to the next ought to be the highest responsibility anyone could have.”
Nancy Jester represents District 1 on the DeKalb County Board of Education.