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LETTER: Don't overlook the good at Alcovy High School

My name is Chris Edgar, I have been a teacher and coach at Alcovy High School since the doors opened in 2006. Recently our school has received unfavorable press about a few incidents such as food fights. Your newspaper does a good job of reporting things that our school accomplishes such as athletic achievements and most recently being named an AP Honor school. But not surprisingly, many of the comments from readers were about the negative articles, not the good ones. Many times, I have defended Alcovy High School to my friends in the community. Every day I walk into this building, I am inspired by some of my colleagues that have sacrificed and continue to do so for the benefit of our students. There are also really good students here that do great things. wanted to take this opportunity to list some things that go unrecognized for a variety of reasons, but probably most importantly, the teachers and students don't want the spotlight for something that comes naturally to them. I am not going to list names to protect their privacy.

-- A teacher noticed that her student was hungry. When she probed a little, she found out that child had not eaten in several days. That teacher started a food pantry from donations from other teachers to help provide for students whose families cannot provide for them.

-- Some of our AP teachers give up their Saturdays so students can get extra tutoring for the AP exams.

-- Recently, a family home of Alcovy students was lost in a fire. Not only did teachers help provide basic necessities such as food and clothing but helped organize temporary housing.

-- A teacher went and picked up a student and dropped him off at his church. The student was looking to change his ways and reached out for help. He had not been to church since he was a boy. He was involved in drugs and failing classes, missing school.

-- Students stay after school to tutor other students who need help in chemistry.

-- "The AHS Reading Bowl team is currently metro Atlanta champions, advancing to the third level of competition, and has placed at the divisional level two out of the last three years".

-- Our student organizations are very involved in the community such as playing bingo at the nursing home, teaching children crafts, volunteering for the river clean-up, helping with special Olympics.

-- Student council members are selling wrist bands to raise money for children in the Philippines.

-- Coaches stay late waiting for children to be picked up after practices or sporting events.

-- Teachers give lunch money to kids that don't have any.

-- One teacher said this "In 28 years of teaching, DeKalb, Gwinnett, and Newton Counties, this is by far the best year I have ever had! My students this year are kind, polite, responsible, generous, and caring. I look forward to coming to school every day, and I miss my students when I cannot be here. Alcovy is a wonderful place to work, and I thank God that I get to spend my last few years before retirement here! I would not want to be anywhere else!"

-- Several teachers have battled cancer and the effects of chemotherapy. They came to school every day, so that their students would not have to have long term subs.

-- A teacher volunteered to anonymously pay the fees for an athlete to play a sport he loved, but his family could not afford it. The teacher never taught the athlete.

-- Teachers and coaches sacrifice time with their family constantly in their duties for this school.

-- Many students come to school every day early to meet with teachers for tutoring.

-- A teacher comforted a student whose parents went through a nasty divorce with the child in the middle of it. A hug goes a long way.

-- Students have created a Dream wall, where they put their dreams out in public.

-- A student received her first paycheck. When asked what she was going to do with it, she responded, "Buy my family a nice meal." In response to this, the Culinary Arts Club prepared frozen meals for the family, and collected $200 for a Christmas gift.

-- In the last three years our Career Technical Instruction students have had four 1st place finishes, three 2nd place finishes, and three 3rd place finishes at the Spring state competition where they have to present projects related to career goals to a panel of judges.

-- Alcovy has had two West Point cadets.

-- Our chorus students put on an anti-bullying performance.

-- Our FBLA won many awards at competition this year.

-- Teachers pay for graduation robes and panels for students that cannot afford them.

-- Last year we had a Gates Millennium Scholar, awarded to only 1,000 nationally.

-- Our Anchor club is providing pillows at Children's Healthcare. They also put on a dance for our special education students annually.

-- A student who brought in five huge boxes of food--easily over 100 items. She told the class that years ago, her family hadn't had enough money to eat, and her dad had had to go to a Food Bank to get food. Now that he was on more solid footing, he wanted to be able to give back to the community.

-- A teacher was able to take 4 Student Council officers to D.C. for a National Association of Student Councils student leadership conference (called LEAD Conference 2012). They were able to meet, connect, share ideas with students and advisers from around the country, and hear messages from amazing motivational speakers about how to be the leaders of today not just the leaders of tomorrow! They represented our school well, and will be sharing the leadership skills and ideas they acquired to benefit our school and community.

-- This year Alcovy FFA adopted a family through the Salvation Army this Christmas. Members brought in over 100 nonperishable food items. We also provided the family of five 30 gifts, including brand new shoes and coats for the children.

-- AHS DECA won many regional and state awards including the Best New DECA chapter in the state of Georgia, state competitors, and a state of Georgia DECA officer

-- An Alcovy alumnus enrolled at GT is currently a lead programmer for the U.S. military designing IED detection devices.

-- A teacher donated blood in honor of a student with a bleeding disorder.Every school has issues, the educational landscape is constantly changing. Although, our teachers and administration are focused on student achievement, they are humans and good and decent people who genuinely care for the students that walk these halls. Like any school, a small representation of the student body should not be looked at as the norm. Most of our students want to achieve in the classroom and are disappointed when they don't. They care about each other and their school. Members of the community that want to help Newton County schools, I implore you to get involved and volunteer at a school. Your time, your resources, and your expertise can make a huge difference in the lives of Newton County students. I for one am a proud Alcovy Tiger.

Chris Edgar

Alcovy High School

U.S. History

Head Boys Soccer Coach

Comments

Covingtonian 2 years, 10 months ago

Thank you sir for your time and dedication. I have heard a lot of negative comments about Alcovy and the other two High Schools in the county and quite frankly I could only shake my head in disgust. Yes there are some students who show little self control and respect but there is hope. The answer can be found in the home where training and respect should start. The entertainment industry has also helped to ruin generations. I have sadly heard and witnessed in public places, parents of toddlers and small children threaten to "beat your a.... if you don't .... you can fill in the blank. That is how the kids are being taught to deal with conflict ( fight or curse) and when someone in authority be it a teacher or LEO makes an attempt to correct said child, those same parents want to know why "you messing with my child"?

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amp72 2 years, 10 months ago

The issue people have is not with the teachers and majority of students at Alcovy but with how the "bad eggs" are dealt with. I have family at Alcovy and there are fights constantly and the offenders are right back at school. Kids disrupt classes and assemblies and receive a slap on the wrist. Yes they are not being taught well at home but they are also not being punished at school which is why they keep doing it. Duh.

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amp72 2 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Edgar, first of all thank you for your dedication to your students and athletes. Same goes to all the other teachers. I must say, however, that this is a bit of an overreaction to one negative story in the newspaper. It's not as though there have been a series of negative stories about Alcovy, so I am not sure why people are getting so defensive. I have cousins who attend AHS and had family members graduate from the school. They can report some serious negative incidents at the school that also go unreported. While I agree there are many good things going on there and many good people (as there are at EVERY school, not just AHS) there are also many negatives that simply are not handled properly. I lived in Florida for 17 years and there was a school district right next to my county that did not tolerate ANY mischief and yet the county where I lived did not act swiftly. Guess which county had the better schools. I do not know if you have children or will have them, but I ask you this question. Would you let your children attend Alcovy the way it is now. Answer truthfully. Some in the county have no choice, but as a teacher you do. Would you willingly send them to Alcovy? I am glad to hear that so many good things are happening there, and quite frankly it is not the newspaper's job to be the public relations arm of the school system. Yes the school does need community support, no argument there. But the school also needs strong leadership and that has been lacking. There is also no argument there, either. There are many stories like those you shared from businesses and schools all over the county, but there are also many incidents such as fist fights, sexual harassment, gang activity, theft, etc. that don't make it into the paper either. As a teacher I am sure you have seen your fair share of fights and unseemly behavior.

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rsd 2 years, 10 months ago

This issue about the "food fight" is not with the Administration, Principal or Teachers of the school. The issue is with the parents of the students. The parents need to take responsibility for training and disciplining their children instead of blaming the Administrators, Principal and Teachers for their children's unruly and unacceptable behavior. Parents unwilling to acknowledge their own children's disobedience and attempts to focus blame on those in authority and circumstances is a trend that is prevalent across the United States. Instead of maturing from "young and dumb" into "old and wise" parents, I am convinced that most of the parents raising children in our society are still children themselves. And like a child, they will always try to focus the blame on someone or something else instead of taking responsibility.

PARENTS, IT IS TIME TO GROW UP! YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING AND LEARNING FROM YOU!

Now, here is a suggestion about how to discipline the students involved in the "food fight." Do not allow them to have any food for about three to seven days (this is called a "fast".) Make sure they have plenty of water and other types of liquids to drink. This "fast" will be good for them and may make them appreciate the food that is being provided for them. It is obvious from their behavior that they are now taking their food provisions for granted.

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motherof2 2 years, 10 months ago

I have 2 children that graduated from Alcovy. I transfered them from EHS to Alcovy as I am an employee of the county. We were very satisfied with the education our children received from both schools. ALL schools have the same issuses with fighting, drugs, food fights, gangs, etc. the list could go on and on. My children have told me things that I could not hardly beleive that went on in school by some students. Many students have no self respect much less respect for the educators that are trying to help them! RSA, you said it well in the above post! I totally agree with your quote, "This issue about the "food fight" is not with the Administration or Teachers of the school. The issue is with the parents of the students. The parents need to take responsibility for training and disciplining their children instead of blaming the Administrators and Teachers for their children's unruly and unacceptable behavior. PARENTS, IT IS TIME TO GROW UP! YOUR CHILDREN ARE WATCHING AND LEARNING FROM YOU! That is the truth!"

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

I don't think any of the comments about the "food fight" were meant to apply to ALL students & staff at AHS but there are enough significant occurrences (hall way/classroom fights, students climbing walls, school lock downs 7 back pack searches, student skipping out of classes, classroom disruptions, students sent to ISS but teachers not providing class work, etc.) on a weekly basis there to become concerned. Students are written up but little. if any, action by administration is taken. Totally agree many of these issues start at home but until the home fronts get "fixed", which will be somewhere around the 12th of never IMHO, meaningful disciplinary actions are needed to be put in place and followed through on. These students know well what they can get away with and they keep testing the boundaries..

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amp72 2 years, 10 months ago

Exactly! Look folks, you can whine about bad parents all you want but kids are going to get away with whatever you let them. Give them an inch and they will take a foot. AHS has been going down hill not just because of parenting but because the administration has no guts. You're in a dream world if you think me telling little Bobby to go to school and be a good boy is going to change anything. If Bobby goes to school and knows he can cheat, get in a fight, act like a loser in class, buy drugs in the bathroom and smoke weed in the parking lot then guess what? That;s exactly what he will do! John is right, this is about clamping down NOW and sending a message. That is up to the leadership at the school, not the parents. And when that happens, the majority good kids will succeed and get the education they deserve.

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123alcovy 2 years, 10 months ago

I believe that people are just plain fed-up with the administration at Alcovy HS not being able to do their jobs! Of course there are good students and teachers! But just how are they supposed to be kept safe from the little thugs that get away with almost everything! Hello? Wake up, there is a huge problem over there and no one wants to lose their job by speaking up! I know a few employees of that school and I hope someone shakes up the administration quickly before something really bad happens. It would be awful for the BOE to learn a lesson from a tragedy! The principal is not qualified for her position, replace her already, enough said!

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rsd 2 years, 10 months ago

John, Amp72 and 123alcovy just verified my earlier comments. Parents and other interested adults must maintain the proper focus concerning the "food fight". Remember this: Administrators, Principals and Teachers have been put in place to "educate" students, not "reform" them. Please discontinue focusing the blame on the school staff for the disobedient, unruly and unacceptable behavior of the students. Students do not have to be taught how to be disobedient, disrespectful and sometimes disgusting in their actions. From the womb, students must be instructed on how to be obedient, respectful and submissive to those in authority over them. What you are experiencing in the shool is simply a reflection of what is already taking place in the home. And yes, as a parent, I do expect my child to attend school and not cheat, fight, act like a loser, buy drugs in the bathroom and smoke weed in the parking lot. If my child does this, I am certainly not going to blame those in authority for my child's unruly behavior.

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amp72 2 years, 10 months ago

OK, keep living in your little dream world. Let me ask you this, why do we have discipline policies at the schools? We are not blaming the teachers, they have a tough enough job. We are blaming the people who do not FOLLOW THROUGH on discipline policies that are put in place. As I have said before, I have first hand knowledge of serious incidents that have taken place at Alcovy that have been ignored or not punished. Please read the comments again, but a little more closely next time. No one is blaming those in authority for the child's behavior, we are blaming the policies in place that encourage such behavior because there is no deterrent. I swear, the reading comprehension of some of the commentators makes me question the Newton Co education even more!

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John 2 years, 10 months ago

rsd, The solution is all people involved with a student must get involved parents, teachers, bus drivers, administration and BOE to resolve the issues. Teachers cannot effectively "educate" if the classroom demands too much of there time to control those that don't wish to learn at the expense of those that do. Now I go back in time when I was in school and the greater majority of students respected the teachers and fellow students, feared being sent to the principles office & yes, there were students who were "unruly", These students were dealt with and the issues were promptly resolved.
As as side note when I was in school, all teachers, except the gym teachers, administration, principles all dressed like they were going to church on Sunday - no casual attire, like polo shirts, slacks & tennis shoes. This approach helped establish a level of respect between teacher & students - times have greatly changed. And I do understand that laws/policies have changed greatly over time which ties the hands of what can be done to rectify situations but all involved must do their part to bring about change now.

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Coachedgar 2 years, 10 months ago

Amp, like many of my colleagues that currently have their children at Alcovy, I would send my child there.

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monica09 2 years, 10 months ago

I'm so glad to have read something positive. Everything lately in our community seems to be negative. Thanks to all the teachers, students and everyone else at Alcovy for all the great things you guys are doing.

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max0797 2 years, 10 months ago

I am an employee of NCSS. I have no association with Alcovy HS. I work in an elementary school. The problem with unruly students disrupting educational opportunities for others is not a HS problem only. With most of these students, it begins early. I know of many elementary students across all grade levels that will bring a class to a standstill. Many of the parents of these children, even at this young age, have lost control of them at home as well. They send these students to school with the attitude they are your problem deal with it. They are NOT JUST the teachers problem.....they become the problem of all the students in that class who can do NOTHING about it. Many times they cause other "borderline" students to follow their behavior. The most frustrating part is the problem it causes for those students that struggle on a daily basis. The ones that need the classroom teacher to focus on helping them learn. The students that WANT to learn. Once a student begins to pitch a tantrum it destroys the learning atmosphere in a classroom. The teacher's hands are tied. They call the office for help with these students..sometimes administrators come...sometimes they are too busy. In these cases, an administrator MUST be involved..an administrator must make sure the parents know this behavior will not be tolerated.. That is NOT happening. Principals don't want to send young students home because parents will leave them home alone. These students get a stern talk, a little time out, maybe a piece of candy and sent back to class. We begin at this point to teach them there are no serious consequences for bad behavior. Most are glad for the time out of the classroom. Administrator of schools in this county have got to get tough on consequences for students (and parents) at all grade levels and schools, that continually disrupt classes. In most cases, it is the same child over and over. These children have learned the admins do not what to upset them because then they have to deal with a physical altercation (in some cases) with an out of control student so we "feed the beast" by tiptoeing around this child. It IS the parent's responsibility to raise their child to understand right from wrong BUT in the absence of that happening administrators have got to TAKE control and let both child and PARENT know we WILL NOT let this child hinder other's education. NCSS promises a safe learning environment for all students. It is time to step up and walk the walk not just talk the talk. If we want test scores to improve, we have to stop the kids in schools that are interfering with learning so our highly qualified teachers can teach. This is what makes the NC Theme School successful.

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spdracer90 2 years, 9 months ago

Completely agree!!!! Zero tolerance 100% of the time is what we need.

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rsd 2 years, 10 months ago

Discipline policies must be and are established because students must be trained in discipline and the discipline policies must be enforced by those who have authority over the student population. But, as max0797 states from personal experience, "Many of the parents of these children, even at this young age, have lost control of them at home as well. They (the parents) send these students to school with the attitude they are your problem deal with it." max0797 also states that ". . . an administrator must make sure the parents know this behavior will not be tolerated. That is NOT happening. Principals don't want to send young students home because parents will leave them alone. These students get a stern talk, a little time out, maybe a piece of candy and sent back to class. We begin at this point to teach them there are no serious consequences for bad behavior. Administrator(s) of schools in this county have got to get tough on consequences for students (and parents) at all grade levels and schools, that continually disrupt classes. In most cases, it is the same child over and over."

My suggestions: 1. Send the disobedient, disruptive and undisciplined students back home to their parents who are the ones mainly responsible for training their children to be obedient, submissive to authority and disciplined in all manners of life. When the parents are held responsible for their child's behavior ( this may include missing several days of work and some serious one-on-one time with their child) then you will begin to see a difference in the behavior of the student population. 2. Administrators; fulfill your obligation concerning your promise to provide "a safe learning environment for all students." That is what you are getting paid for so do your job! Your responsiblity is to educate; not reform. Never usurp the responsiblity of the parents you serve; even if it means that some "children will be left behind" on a temporary basis.

I will close with this:

A man who has the problems seldom has the answers. A man who has the answers seldom has the problems.

I am a man who knows what I am talking about and I am confident that I have provided you with the answer to the main problem that is rampant throughout our Public School System all across our nation; not just here in Newton County.

A special "Thank You" to the Newton County Citizen for allowing this space for this type of on-going dialogue. Who knows, this might be the beginning of the proper approach to educating our children.

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amp72 2 years, 10 months ago

And to prove my point about ineffective discipline policies actually encouraging misbehavior, the "terrible" punishment meted out by the AHS administration for food fights and the ridiculous act of throwing trash and food around the school halls consisted of confining the students to eating in the cafeteria for a grand total of five days. Seriously. And you all wonder why the kids act like fools. Because there is no reason not to.

I as a parent do my job, but what about the parents who do not do their job? I do expect the adult administration to issue strict discipline measures to ensure the safety and education of my child in the schools because I am not naive enough to expect 100% of the parents to do their job.

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rsd 2 years, 10 months ago

It is now time to end the discussion about what the problem is; that is quite evident. Now is the time for action on the part of Parents, Administrators, Principals, Teachers and Students who are sincerely interested in bringing about positive changes.

I took the liberty of checking on the policies already in place to enable the Administrators, Principals and Teachers to fulfill their promise to provide "a safe learning environment for all students". The policies are there. The Administrators, Principals and Teachers need to work together and begin implementing those policies. You will not be liked for doing this; but you are not paid to be popular. You are being paid to educate our children that are being placed under your authority. Use the authority that has been given to you and implement the policies already in place to handle the disobedient, disruptive and disrespectful students. This may mean introducing some of the parents to the "Home School" approach to education; but eventually they will get the message. Our school system is not meant to reform, but to educate!

Now, let us quit discussing the issue and get to work on solving the problem. You will wonder why you did not do this sooner.

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amp72 2 years, 9 months ago

So Mr. Edgar, how are you feeling about defending the administration at that school now? Just in the last week we have had a rumble at the bus ramp, two students charging into a classroom and beating a 14-yr-old student who told on them for having marijuana, two arrests for students having knives on campus, and a special needs student attacked in the halls. Yeah, great school. You tell everyone not to overlook the good at AHS but that is not the problem. The problem is too many people overlook the bad things. It's time to clean house. These thugs will never go away because their parents won't handle it so the clear solution is to have leadership at the school who will.

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