We need serious discussion about our schools

Published 12:00am Thursday, April 11, 2013

Separate still isn’t equal.

When did we decide “separate but equal” was still a viable option for education in Adams County? Of course I believe that question is rhetorical. I am not sure we ever abandoned it in the first place. And because of that Adams County is still greatly divided. Having attended Cathedral from first grade until senior year of high school, I am probably not the best voice to speak up on this issue. But someone has to.

When I acted up in school (which happened a lot in middle school) my parents threatened me with public school. For some reason, that frightened me. Why should it have? Are the teachers there worse than those at private school? Are the students? The answer is no. For example I graduated with 30 other people, but began the year with at least 35. Take a look at the front of a 2011 year book and then the back. Faces disappear. We had some students kicked out and others who felt they had to leave to escape persecution from other students. Sixteen percent of our class didn’t graduate with us, and that happened in our senior year. I have to assume the percentage of seniors who left Natchez High can’t be far off and is possibly lower. Also, I know I had some great teachers and some terrible ones. Not to mention how hard it was to get a counselor to help me apply for any college that wasn’t LSU, Ole Miss or MSU. I was met with an incredulous look as well as, “You want to go where?”

Knowing all of this now makes me realize I would have been fine at public school because I had all the tools I needed to succeed outside of school. The problem is that most students who are in public school don’t have that. They depend on school to lift themselves out of poverty, and we as a community have not done enough to help these students. We may pay taxes, but we don’t pay attention.

We have three private schools in a county of 30,000 people. Each of which cost more than $5,000 for the first child and a slightly lesser rate for second, third and so-forth. The median income in our county is under $27,000 a year. This is only $2,000 above the poverty line. Most families can hardly afford to get by, let alone afford to send their kids anywhere other than public school.

By way of our private schools we have kept alive the tradition of “separate but equal,” one divided by class instead of race. We are invested in our great students, but they are not the ones who actually require attention. The poverty stricken students are the ones who struggle with how our system is set up. Their parents don’t have choices. They have Natchez High. And we haven’t made it a competitive choice. Our state is at the bottom for public education year after year because no one seems to care. We use it as a specter for the well off to keep up the good work and a prison for those who can’t escape it.

I think now about a lot of our elected officials in our community. I know so many whose kids I went to school with or who attended the other private schools. What does it say about a place when those involved in the public sector can’t embrace public education?

I have ranted a bit, probably never made a solid case, and of course I don’t have a solution. I just wanted to start a discussion. Not on the website’s comment thread telling me how dumb or misinformed I am, but with our community coming up with solutions and telling me how dumb and misinformed I am. To sum this up we have a major problem, and I want to see action. I want to see uproar that we have allowed ourselves to underperform for so long. We aren’t really helping anyone in the community by helping those who don’t need it.

I would request that those with experience in education to speak up. I want a discussion, and I want action to come from it. I know Alderman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis has a history of involvement in public education and that Supervisor David Carter has a PhD in Education. I would love if they would write editorials as well. I would like to see series in The Natchez Democrat to raise questions, concerns and hopefully involvement. Thank you for reading.


Martin Charboneau is a Natchez resident.


  • Anonymous

    Private school parents want the “best” education for their child, even willing to spend the family jewels to that end. Public school families don’t normally have family jewels so there you go. Wonder why private schools are not subjected to common core standards and standardized testing to gauge their true effectiveness? The biggest bennie for privates is they can kick someone out for behavior issues, the publics are not so fortunate in that respect, therefore the atmosphere is more disruptive to learning. Then, there is the teacher compensation issue, publics pay more but do not attract the better qualified/capable private moms who teach while their children are in private school to afford the tuition and quit work thereafter. Public teachers are more career oriented, many are single parents and this is their only source of income, thus they continue to toil until retirement.

  • http://www.natchezdemocrat.com khakirat

    Martin you wrote a good comment for I had a son too that finished at Cathedral very well like you. But today after him getting his career and family going he will tell you that his going to Cathedral was a great life experience and thank his Mother and I often!!! We had friends he grew up with that wanted him to come to the public schools to play sports which we as parents had to object to for the academics reasons, religious training, morals, and teachers that had permission to correct him at whatever speed!! He will tell you that he wouldn’t ever got the education he got in a public school or the good moral training as well!! Ms. during the 50′s and 60′s and especially Natchez public schools had very high academics and my kids went to public schools in the 70′s and 80′s and the standards were high then but after 1988 it started too fall because the state test was simple put at a lower level and there you go too the below levels that is where its at today!!! This doesn’t take rocket scientist to figure or discussion for it starts again first with the parents and their responsibility toward their children!!!!!! I wouldn’t hold the two you mentioned to hold water with their PHd. in Education for your parents and elders can give you better truthful information from the heart than anyone but you have to listen and it may take years for you to mature on your journey of life !!!!! Hope you the very best in life and God bless you!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Stutzman/100000914851900 Joe Stutzman

    i used to be a huge advocate of public education. things were GREAT at morgantown school. then came middle school. there my daughter learned that the moon was the closest planet to Earth. in history she learned that Ms. needs a new state constitution. WHY? the present one was ratified in slavery times. dont remember when slavery was Constitutionally over, but for practical purposes it ended when the War Between the States ended-1865. next stop for both my kids-ACCS. they both now have masters degrees. dont know if they could have done the same thing after a pulic education. we’ll never know. but i wasnt willing to take that chance.

  • Anonymous

    When our private schools were created our economic throat was cut. And not only ours, but every other community throughout the whole delta region from here to Memphis. All extra and expendable income goes into education, for which we already are taxed.

  • Anonymous

    Very true. I have always been astounded that the private school parents saddled with this burden have not risen up and demanded the public schools get up to standards so this duplicate expense could be eliminated. Part of the problem is that the public schools could not handle the influx population with existing facilities thus requiring new schools be built. Wouldn’t that be a novel idea on a way to break the logjam? Presumably, the public school test scores should improve with the new population supposedly being higher achievers who are better prepared for college(?), whether financially or higher literacy achievement. This fact seems skewed since privates are not subject to the common core curriculum and standardized state testing, they just have to pass the ACT to go into college. As a result, the public schools have to cope with lower learning standards and dumb down rather than bring the students up to a higher performance standard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregory.marshall.7 Gregory Marshall

    I’d like to start by tipping my hat to you young man. Your article blew me away. It was very thoughtfully written. I commend you for for being courageous enough to voice your true opinion on such a sensitive issue. The true measure of a man is determined by his faith to stand by what he believes in, even if it means standing alone. You followed your heart and delivered a powerful message to your community with little regards to the potential backlash from your peers. You created a buzz and opened the door for dialogue at a bare minimum. Progress starts with communication and a desire for change. Times are changing and Natchez has been left in a time zone that’s never going to help our community. I applaud you for challenging our political leaders to address this issue. I’m a true believer that the truth is easier to stand by. Never be afraid to voice your opinion young man. Natchez needs more young potential leaders like you. As a writer and published author I give you an A+ for your writing skills. Check out my article in the “Top of the morning” for March 21st and you’ll understand where I’m coming from. May God continue to Bless you!