It is indisputably clear that education is important to the people of Richmond County.
I do not have commensurate expressions to match the pride that consumed me at Augusta's first State of Public Education 2011 Forum on Jan. 6. It was breathtaking to behold the interest present in students; parents; teachers; school officials;, school administrators; legislators; business and industry representatives; community and civic leaders; churches; citizens; the media; and so many others.
This community is calling for high-quality schools -- schools that will position children for productive and important stations in life beyond high school. And the willingness to get this done by "the village" was evident at the forum. When have we observed such a large audience for an occasion whose roots were not in the ground of controversy? I applaud everyone who was there, as well as those who wanted to be there.
IN MY MIND, Augusta is the renaissance city of the South, and the surrounding communities that make up Richmond County fuel this image. The area is fertile for growing and developing its youth to claim any profession or vocation that their minds and efforts desire. The adults in the schoolhouses and those in the various neighborhoods are exhausting efforts to create cultures of success for children each day.
To achieve our goal of introducing into society a large number of highly intelligent, skillful and industrious young men and women, every productive individual and organization in the community -- religious and civic -- must connect with the school and the home to support positive development of our children.
To complement the often-cited expression "It takes a village to raise a child," another ancient African citation states, "The strength of a nation is in the home." So the winning formula exists in these two proclamations.
Every single effort should be guided by a formula that would nurture the growth and development of society's children. If this formula is achieved, then everything else is achieved -- including excellent schools, fine neighborhoods, prosperous cities and towns, economic stability and industry and jobs.
Schools are among the first to discover when the home may be challenged for whatever reason and cannot adequately nurture the growth and development of children of any age. The caring and nurturing side of school staff surfaces automatically and finds ways to come to the aid of children, often financing the shortcomings with personal resources. This is what educators do in their servant-role capacity. Churches, civic groups and businesses do the same.
FIVE YEARS FROM now, it is predicted by local and national economists that the economy will return to normal. It also is predicted the jobs that will return with the improved economy will require different knowledge and a different set of skills. There also will be a sizable exit of workers entering retirement over the next five to seven years.
We are monitoring the emerging trends and will have our students ready to provide the skill sets that will be demanded by existing industry and new industry. That is why we project to have at least 90 percent of our students graduating from high school college-ready, work-ready or service-ready over the next three years.
I will hasten to say that in the process of preparing our students -- a process that is already in progress -- the schools will need continuous involvement of the community. That involvement can present itself in a number of forms and fashions.
I am delighted to serve both the children and the people serving them in the Augusta-Richmond County area. Together, we have the capacity to do great things for them and for the communities that comprise Richmond County. May God bless our children, and may God bless our communities.
(The writer is the superintendent of schools for the Richmond County school system.)