Darrell Huckaby: Rockdale's loss is Virginia's gain

Darrell Huckaby

Darrell Huckaby

Will Rogers used to begin his speeches with "All I know is what I read in the newspaper." I could say the same thing -- if I added the Internet and tweets and texts and email to the equation. The news I read in the local paper yesterday was all about education -- and it was all bad.

Because of cuts made at the state level, Rockdale County Public Schools is going to be forced to cut another $15 million from next year's budget. This is on top of last year's $9 million cut and the $10 million cut from the previous year and the $4 million cut from the year before that.

I'm not blaming the local school board understand. We cannot spend money that we don't have. But if the state of Georgia thinks that funding education is expensive, wait a few years until they find out how expensive not funding it is going to turn out to be.

I drove to school with a heavy heart because I know how hard it has been for the teachers of the various schools to carry the burden they've been asked to carry already. Now it is likely to get harder.

When I arrived at school I received more bad news. After flirting with school systems elsewhere in Georgia and in Louisiana over the past couple of years, Dr. Samuel King has announced that he will be leaving on July 1 to take over the reins of the Norfolk, Va., public school system. I wish Dr. King the best, but I hate to see him go.

As I have told him on many occasions, I have enjoyed having him as superintendent because he has taken a lot of pressure off me in the Citizen Poll. I have also enjoyed having him as superintendent because I live in this community and work in the school system and have entrusted my most prized possessions -- my three children -- to be educated in the Rockdale County Public Schools.

Let me tell you how that has worked out. My oldest child received a doctorate from the University of Georgia at the age of 24. My son, who is 23, received his second degree from UGA last week and will begin a teaching career in the field of math next fall. Our youngest child will be a junior in the Henry Grady School of Journalism next fall. All my children have excelled in college because of the preparation they received in the Rockdale County Schools. Let's face it. I'm not all that smart and neither is my lovely wife, Lisa. It couldn't be genetics.

Now let me tell you a couple of things about Sam King. I know that a lot of you are rolling your eyes as you read this and a lot of people won't even read it because you have been upset about the changes that have occurred in our once idyllic community over the past 10 years. I share your angst. As our community has changed, so have the challenges of our school system. Many people have looked for someone to blame for the changes and have decided to blame the person at the top. That person, for the past seven years, has been Dr. King -- who should take some consolation from the fact that Ruel Parker received a considerable amount of criticism when he was the man in charge, too.

Sam King took over this school system at a time when the demographic changes were being compounded by more and more mandates handed down by the federal government and the No Child Left Behind law -- and the whole thing coincided with a recession and an all-out assault on the state schools budget. Our schools could have floundered, but they didn't.

We have been asked to do more and more with less and less for years and with Sam King's leadership, we have done just that.

Now I am not a fan of AYP -- adequate yearly progress. I don't think we should ever be satisfied with adequate schools. But AYP is the measuring stick that we are required by law to use. I don't like the BCS in college football, either, but they give the crystal trophy to the team that wins it.

Having been inside the schools for Dr. King's entire tenure I can attest to the fact that he is completely supportive of the administration and teachers as long as they are pursuing excellence. I can't speak for anyone else, but as far as I am concerned, he has always been accessible and encouraging and has allowed me to do my job and utilize my talents. I count him as a friend and colleague.

I also have had the opportunity to travel across this state, speaking at numerous teacher's in-service functions and state conventions for a variety of educational entities. Everywhere I go people in the know are impressed by what we have done and are doing in Rockdale County.

Our loss is the commonwealth of Virginia's gain. Godspeed, Samuel King. Thank you for your efforts on behalf of our community and our children.

Darrell Huckaby is a local educator and author. Email him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net. For past columns, visit www.rockdalecitizen.com or www.newtoncitizen.com.