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Jeff Meadors: Schools rise and fall on leadership

Jeff Meadors

Jeff Meadors

Down Ga. Highway 36 toward Jackson, beyond the old Meadors home place, stand schools of personal interest to me.

Heard-Mixon Elementary, a Georgia School of Excellence, named in part after the Heard side of my dad's family, bustles with achievement accolades.

A little further down the road, I watched Alcovy High emerge years ago from endless acres of red clay. The most expensive high school to operate, and built close to the county line, the state-of-the-art building sprouted from pastures amidst word from workmen that a body was discovered on site.

Forensic mystery gave way to high hopes as the 2,500-capacity building opened in 2006. Now, with 1,800 students, the selection process begins for a fifth school principal in less than seven years; there have been two interims.

What will it take to lead? Let's look at what we know.

From the most recently available public data at the Governor's Office, we know that Alcovy High graduates a class of seniors with just 37 percent eligible for HOPE funding. This figure represents a serious blow to the local economy. Businesses use figures like this to assess local workforce talent.

We know that Alcovy has a cohort graduation rate of 64.7 percent, below the state average, and American College Test scores below NCSS, the state of Georgia and the nation.

Alcovy Advanced Placement test-takers pass AP exams at a rate of 39.6 percent. In fiscal year 2012, Alcovy SAT test-takers experienced double digit declines in both SAT math and critical reading. SAT total scores hold below the state and nation.

On the state math II End of Course Test (EOCT), AHS test-takers failed at a rate of 61 percent; biology EOCT failure rates were 35 percent. This data spells economic disaster in the STEM and post-secondary areas.

How did we let this happen in our own back yards?

When triangulated with high faculty turnover, an exodus of seasoned counselors and assistant principals, and frequent appearances in weekly school crime reporting, the collective data reveal one root cause for me: Leadership.

A school will rise or fall on leadership. When we find high-performing schools, we will find a strong school leader. It is time to rise and deliver the goods both to students and to taxpayers affected by Alcovy High School.

The brain drain of high teacher turnover has resulted in achievement data as we currently know it, robbing 63 percent of graduates of potential HOPE money and breeding mistrust of public educators.

Research shows that students with math and reading deficits, as shown in the data above, face tremendous challenges in college, often struggling, then dropping out. A handful will become part-time college students; most part-time students fail to complete college.

If we believe all students can learn, as I do, then we will do better by them, affording them a successful public education and much-needed relief from ZIP code failure by carefully selecting a strong leader. This is no time for backroom deals or shady alliances.

Imagine the local impact of an Alcovy High School exceeding state and national achievement averages. And then imagine more of the same.

Jeff Meadors is the District 1 representative on the Newton County Board of Education. Readers may email him at pjeffreymeadors@gmail.com.

Comments

Eyeball 1 year, 7 months ago

You began your article by mentioning your family's legacy. Does that gives you some sort of instant credibility? It appears your article is an attempt to attack the previous principal. Somehow you refuse to move forward. You should look in the mirror. Leadership should start with you! Personally I feel you are a very divisive individual. It takes the involvement of the community to become successful in the educational arena. Parents, students, administrators, school employees and local government all are stakeholders. Parents should also be held accountable for their children's progress. If children spend less time on social media and more time studying, maybe then their grades and study habits will improve. Why are we always blaming the school system, the administration, and our teachers? Students' behaviors are attributed to the type of discipline they receive at home. If discipline is not enforced at home, how can we expect them to be disciplined at school? Hopefully, you will be a one-term board member.

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eyewitness 1 year, 7 months ago

sounds like you Eyeball are scared of the facts the facts are what they are and I don't see the word "legacy" used in his column so you sound like someone who cannot move on - the piece is timely because the NCSS is searching for a new leader so it is in the moment reporting - i will vote for him again

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John 1 year, 7 months ago

Eyeball, The issues you state about about home discipline, social media, community involvement, etc. etc can be applied county wide. But if one of the 3 high schools(AHS) is beforming at a lower level than the other two and that one high school was initialy started up from those that were attending Eastside & Newon HS school districts, there is a great possibility the past & present issues of AHS lie behind the walls of brick & motar at AHS, BOE from the day AHS opened its doors. Mr. Meadors is the only member that continually that comes forth with reliable information vs a "song & dance". routine.

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Lucy30016 1 year, 7 months ago

@eyeball I NEVER SAW MENTION OF A NAME OF ANYONE BEING ATTACKED. GO JUMP IN THE LAKE.

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gsm7476 1 year, 7 months ago

Eyeball the numbers are the numbers and they do not lie. For too long the CEO of NCSS has had his head in the sand and twisted the numbers to make himself look good (does this remind you of anything in the news lately) For too long the business leaders have join him in hiding the truth from future business developments. This unholy alliance has hurt the education of the children. I for one can say I Cannot wait for June. I Hope a new day for our children will start then. After all it should be about the education of the children.

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ThePublicGood 1 year, 7 months ago

I sure hope he does run again. He is the only one who keeps saying stop spending. He voted no to paying GSBA to do what ordinary people should be able to do on their own - hire a supt. I say if you want people off the board you go after the ones who have been around for decades who have us 2 years away from being in the RED ink on the budget line. Thank you SIR for telling the truth I just went to the DOE and every single number he quotes is truthful. Some of you just hate the truth. I also want a strong leader to bring AHS back to a successful place to work.

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dennistay53 1 year, 7 months ago

You speak the truth Mr Meadors. Proble is too many in this county would not know the truth if it hit them between the eyeball.

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Billy 1 year, 7 months ago

JM, sincere thanks again for your efforts to improve schools and accountability, but you're a passenger on the Titanic, meaning public schools. Any alternative--private school, religious school, approved home schooling--beats public schools by a mile. If you're sending your children to PS, you're submitting your child to a grossly inferior teaching experience, along with gangs, drugs, violence, and staff that bears little comparision to quality people like JM. It's up to you, but PS is the worst option, and if you can manage it, (sometimes you can't), it would be in yours, and especially your child's, interest to choese an alternative route...

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OnToday 1 year, 7 months ago

Meadors hits another one out of the park!

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Frustrated 1 year, 7 months ago

I have said this before and I will say it again...good employees follow the example of their leader. If you have a strong and supportive leader the employees will do a good job. If the new Superintendant and new principle at AHS are strong leaders that support the teachers you will see good results.

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