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Sitton Letter - 09/09/09

Georgia and its taxpayers finance public elementary and secondary schools to provide education up to the college, or post-secondary, level. Colleges pick it up from there.

Now, Newton County is seeking a $3.1 million grant for a proposed institution to be named the "Newton College and Career Academy." Public School Superintendent Steve Whatley, Chair Kathy Morgan of the Newton County Board of Commissioners, Covington Mayor Kim C. Carter, President John Boothby of the Chamber of Commerce and others posed for photographs at the announcement in apparent endorsement of the idea.

However, if the program is as described by the school system, the term "college" represents either an ignorant use of the word or a craven willingness of the Board of Education to cave in to the thinking that "college" would look good on some Chamber promotional pamphlet.

The stated mission of the proposed institution would be: "To enhance academic achievement and provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in post-secondary education and the work force." That's the mission of any high school, of which Newton has three.

The board of DeKalb County's technical school reportedly (AJC) voted last week to close two programs on its Newton campus because of consistently low enrollment. That school and branches of others here compete for students with the county's branch of Georgia Perimeter College of the University System of Georgia.

In this, the worst depression since the one called "Great," many counties have increased efforts to bring in new jobs. But Newton should not sink to playing Chamber name games by debasing the language and values of our public education system. That would fool no executive of any desirable industry.

Instead, the county school board should give our schools the leadership needed to meet such measures of quality as criterion referenced and Scholastic Aptitude Tests and, thus, to be rather than to seem.

Claude Sitton

Oxford