NHS good outweighs bad, do you see it?

Published 11:56 pm Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Public schools have a special place in my heart. That’s not news to anyone.

I was educated in a public school system, and I’m a big supporter of the Natchez-Adams School District and the Concordia Parish schools.

I’ve reported on everything from 4-year-old President’s Day plays to superintendent oustings in the Miss-Lou’s public schools for more than four years.

Email newsletter signup

And I’ve met the most inspiring, dedicated, loving, hard-working folks in the area public schools.

The challenges in public schools are unlike the ones anyone else faces, and there is no changing that.

One of those challenges reared its ugly head last week when four members of the Natchez High powerlifting team were arrested on charges of grand larceny.

But the challenge isn’t that students got arrested — that’s a problem that happens at almost every single school in the area.

The challenge was in public perception.

Now, before I go further, let me direct any of you who were upset at the way this newspaper handled the story to my online blog on our Web site. Just visit www.natchezdemocrat.com/weblogs. It’s the first one on the list, and it may serve as some explanation of our actions. You don’t have to agree, but please read.

Human nature is to remember the negative and forget the positive. So news about arrests sticks better in the public mind than news about good deeds.

It’s a shame that the alleged actions of a very small percentage of the Natchez High population reflects poorly on their teammates, their classmates, their school and their district.

If the public only saw things with the negativity filter turned off — or even down a little — the arrests wouldn’t outweigh the good news coming from the Natchez schools.

The public might be more apt to remember the art skills of Darryl Dade, who recently won an art contest for the Mississippi Braves team and won the right to throw out the first pitch at one of their games.

They might remember the courage and competitive nature of Kristy Sikes, a special education student at NHS, who competed in the Special Olympics last week.

The sounds of Alethea Stewart, Edwin Smith and Tremaine Ford — all NHS choir members who were honored as members of the Mississippi American Choral Directors Association All-State Honor Choir — would ring in our ears.

Najee Myles and Krystal Luss would be remembered for giving up a Saturday morning in early March to pick up trash downtown as part of a spring cleanup day.

Kendall Logan’s achievements on the field, court and classroom would be top of mind, much like they were at the National Football Foundation banquet where he was awarded a $1,750 scholarship.

Lee Screws Jr. would be in high demand for his ability to repair computers. The Future Business Leaders of America conference in Jackson recognized him with a first-place award for computer problem solving, why can’t his own community?

These students are only a small spattering of the talent, smarts and good behavior you can find at Natchez High. They were all featured in the newspaper over the last two months, but there are more where they came from.

Yet, it’s likely their awards won’t be as remembered as the rap sheets of four of their classmates.

Unfortunately public perception is a fact of life.

One way or the other, the public schools’ image problem is a community problem that needs attention.

Bad things will always happen. But when we let them run the way we think of our public schools, we are only making a tough situation worse.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.finley@natchezdemocrat.com.