Joining forces will improve education

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More than 700 people took a little step Monday that might just go a long way for Natchez.

The step — one across the threshold of the Natchez Convention Center — probably didn’t mean much to the teachers and school staff taking it.

For them, the focus was on the start of a new school year.

Email newsletter signup

But for the top administrators at each of the four Natchez schools and for a small group of area business leaders, the day was a significant one.

For years the Natchez-Adams County School District has started the year with a teacher convocation at the convention center. The district always brought in an outside motivational speaker, and the morning served as a pep rally of sorts for the coming year.

But never had teachers from Trinity Episcopal, Cathedral School and Adams County Christian School attended the event.

Instead, each local school stayed on its own little island.

The separation, at least in recent years, wasn’t necessarily intentional, I don’t believe. It was just the way it had always been.

Earlier this year, the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce’s Education Committee brainstormed the idea of having a community-wide convocation that included all four schools.

I’m a member of the committee, but the joint-convocation wasn’t my idea; that credit goes elsewhere.

And ultimately, it was the top administrators and school boards of each school that made Monday’s event possible.

But it’s not how we got here that matters; it’s all about where we are going.

As Morgantown Elementary School teacher Sandra Washington said Monday, all local teachers are working toward the same goal.

“We are all trying to make a difference in a child’s life. … No matter if you are public or private or parochial, you want to make a difference,” she said.

So why not pool our resources?

Schools that keep the entire community in mind — not just the students under their roofs — can increase the number of shared staff development programs. They could share technology and equipment. And they could share ideas.

But most important, the schools could share responsibility.

No matter what emblem marks your uniform, Natchez students belong to the same community. Having the best test scores, the brightest students and the highest paid teachers at one school doesn’t make the community stronger. And a weak community hurts even the best, the brightest and the highest paid.

Combining our resources, our hearts and our minds is the only way to improve education and in turn our community.

The children in this community are the responsibility of every educated adult.

We must mold the children so they can mold the future.

Our education committee intends to keep the ball rolling toward more unified school happenings. Any success we have, though, will depend on administrators, teachers, parents and community.

Monday’s meeting has to be a first step, not a last.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or