Proposed charter school ran counter to high school's legacy of diversity

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As we enter our 10th reunion year, I and other alumni of the Hephzibah High School Class of 2004 have been deeply troubled to hear of recent efforts to found a charter school in our small community.

While there is no love lost between many of us and the Richmond County Board of Education, we feel that our invaluable experience at Hephzibah High School is particular to the current demographic composition of the Hephzibah community and its schools. While some of our alumni have left the region, most of us still live in the CSRA and continue to be invested in Hephzibah. We are now, 10 years out, scientists, pastors, pipefitters, doctors, teachers, small-business owners, parents, artists and military service members.

WHAT MADE HEPHZIBAH High a special place was the distinct integration of different races and socioeconomic levels within our student body. In 2004, our racial demographics were composed of a nearly even split of black and white students, with a handful of Asian, Native American and Latino kids thrown in the mix. Some were from old Hephzibah families, others were the children of military personnel and fewer were recent transplants from Augusta proper. We spent our adolescence working on math problems and sweating through sports practices with fellow students who did not share our skin color, home challenges or future aspirations.

We can think of another place where integrated problem-solving and physical labor happen regularly: the real world. The alumni of Hephzibah High School have been particularly well-adjusted and prepared for success in the real world for the past few decades because we faced the realities of mixed work environments early and often.

And this statement is not just a case of misplaced nostalgia for our youth. Many of us lived the hard realities of youths spent as underprivileged individuals in Augusta – working on our parents’ farms; helping raise our siblings and cousins; watching our friends and relatives die by violence; being discriminated against because of our race; or consistently being treated as a voiceless mass that needs to be “dealt with” rather than included in political discourse in the CSRA. The list goes on.

We are not ashamed of these facts; we are proud of who we are and our individual journeys. The time we spent surrounded by one another, fighting through the problems systemically connected to these individual journeys, side-by-side, allowed us to grow into the resilient and productive adults we are today.

CREATING A NEW charter school in Hephzibah, with attendance borders drawn suspiciously similar to the geographic racial lines in our community, would eliminate the possibility that future graduates could benefit from a similar experience. The stated goal of the proposed school – “to challenge students to reach their full potential” – comes with the implication that the current schools fail to do so. Given not only the high performance of students in Hephzibah schools, but also the fact that Hephzibah High offers a multitude of educational and vocational tracks to allow students of any talent to succeed, we believe this is little more than a veiled attempt to resegregate and homogenize the student experience in the Hephzibah community.

We applaud the state of Georgia for denying the most recent application for state funds to support the charter school, and hope that this is the last we will hear of this effort, for the good of the greater Hephzibah community.

(The writer is a doctoral candidate in anthropology/archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis.)

Comments (11) Add comment
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rebellious
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rebellious 12/01/13 - 03:43 am
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Hear Hear

A well written letter, by a well meaning author. I could not agree more. Escape solves nothing.

deestafford
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deestafford 12/01/13 - 09:16 am
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Well written and articulate column; however, it focuses on

diversity and not on education. This is typical of today's educators and administrations more interested in diversity and who is sitting next to whom rather than being able to read, write, and do math.

Who is to say a new charter school run by the parents will not have the same diversity as the community? Parental control of a school providing a quality education is more important than some diversity goals being met yet producing children who cannot read and write.

ymnbde
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ymnbde 12/01/13 - 09:50 am
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the task of a school is education

not diversity... Hephzibah is not a good school, ranking below average in almost every category
why would anyone want to sentence a kid to a bad school?
the government should give vouchers to families, to be spent at the school of their choice
government has simply proven they cannot educate kids better than the private sector, which is why rich families send their kids to private schools
must be a doctorate in government indoctrination

deestafford
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deestafford 12/01/13 - 10:13 am
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I watched a program on how education is done in some of

the better educated countries in Europe. You know what the key is? Competition. Each family is given a check for their child's school and they get to pick what school they go to... I can't remember if there were any public schools at all or if they were all private. The schools that produce get more students and more money just like a successful business. The ones who don't go out of business. Free market capitalism is the best distributor of everything in the world from eggs to automobiles to education.

The government should be completely out of the education business.

gaflyboy
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gaflyboy 12/01/13 - 09:03 pm
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Diversity above all else!

It is sad that so many people see everything through a racial lens. A group of people got together to create a community school for all in the quite “diverse” community, but one less encumbered by bureaucratic waste and nepotism; one that allows for more education.

As highly regarded as Hephzibah High is by the writer, the graduation rate in Georgia is about 66%, which is pitiful. Hephzibah High is just over 50%. People thinking of relocating to Hephzibah look at sites like “city-data.com” and find that on a scale of 0-100 of Georgia schools, Hephzibah High School ranks 15. Certainly not a good sales pitch for our nice town.

It is unfortunate that some see any attempt to improve this as racially motivated. I have a dream too … but we seem to be slipping further from it.

NOTE: Third word corrected from "said"

InChristLove
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InChristLove 12/01/13 - 11:37 am
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"Proposed charter school ran

"Proposed charter school ran counter to high school's legacy of diversity"

I'm sorry, when a school is approximately 32% Caucasian and 64% Africian American, I'd say racial diversity which was highlighted in the article is nonexistent.

countyman
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countyman 12/01/13 - 01:28 pm
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Hephzibah

The 2012 graduation rate of Hephzibah is 61%......

If the media, realtors, etc have convinced people over the last ten years(even before Georgia begin to calculate their graduation rates different in 2011) to move to Grovetown because of the 'schools' in Columbia County then Hephzibah is on par.

Their web page also shows the demographics at 34% white....

The city of Hephzibah can build a new public high school in the future if they concentrated on attracting families. The new school would concentrate on the 'city limits' and the scores would reflect the income of the area.

dichotomy
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dichotomy 12/01/13 - 02:23 pm
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Diversity....now there is

Diversity....now there is another PC word that is usually used to describe something's racial makeup rather than it's functionality. Good schools struggle to attain diversity. Diverse schools struggle to attain the 50 percentile in performance.

deestafford
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deestafford 12/01/13 - 03:22 pm
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We do need diversity in our public schools, colleges, and

universities....diversity of opinions more so than diversity of color groupings. Just try to be a Conservative in most universities and colleges and express a position equal to what the Founders believed and you are sent to the academic gulag.

Yeah, I'm all for diversity...diversity of thought...no matter what the color of the thinker.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/01/13 - 03:35 pm
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Misunderstood

The letter writer totally missed the intent of the proposed Hephzibah charter school. It was not going to be a lily-white segregation academy. Instead, it was planned to encompass students from the geographic area of Hephzibah. If you spend any time at all in Hephzibah, you will see it is diverse in racial make-up, socioeconomic levels, and in cultural experiences.

The current high school buses students out of some areas of Hephzibah and buses in students from outside Hephzibah. That is terribly inefficient and unnecessary in this day and age.

It would have been an interesting experiment, but political correctness shot it down. Bang, bang.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/01/13 - 09:31 pm
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Dead Thread

No one can shut down a thread like Little Lamb.

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