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Honoring Our Legacy, Building Our Future

By Erroll B. Davis Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent | 8/23/2013, 6 a.m.
It is an honor to come before the Atlanta community once again to talk about the state of our system. ...
Atlanta Public Schools

It is an honor to come before the Atlanta community once again to talk about the state of our system. Today, our theme is “Honoring Our Legacy, Building Our Future.”

Why the focus on legacy?

• Because each of us owns a part of it

• Because as the years go by, sometimes we lose sight of who we are collectively and just how far we have come together

• Because when one looks at the full timeline for Atlanta Public Schools, we are much more than controversy and scandal; we are certainly a system filled with challenge, but also one of activism, collaboration, progress … and hope

• And because each of us, as parents, community leaders, educators and alumni are legacy builders in our own right

So while it is good to pause for a nostalgic look back at the 141 years of our existence, as we did when we opened our archives, we have a greater, moral obligation to look at the now and to look ahead. As someone said plainly, no matter the distractions and noise, we must do the “hard work that is worth doing.” We must make Atlanta Public Schools today a living example of excellence and achievement for all students. I say again, for all students.

Last year, we introduced the broader community to the school system’s five-year strategic plan. The plan is a roadmap for holding the system publicly accountable for specific outcomes from now until 2017. Even in the face of declining resources and impending change, we continue to implement our strategic plan.

We remain committed to demonstrating improvement in the areas we call the four E's:

• Excellence in everything we do

• Equity in the distribution of district resources

• Ethics to protect our integrity

• Engagement of our stakeholders

Are We Doing Enough?

On a typical day, I receive more than 100 emails, not to mention the phone calls and text messages. During most weeks, I visit schools and speak directly with students, principals and teachers, as well as cafeteria personnel. Last week, for the first time in my life, I rode a school bus so that I could get a glimpse of the services we are asking our students to experience. And throughout the year, I, along with members of my team, participate in hundreds of community forums, strategy sessions and planning meetings.

The focus of all of this activity is to improve our schools.

Yet my schedule is not unique. Just ask one of our principals and teachers about the demands of their day-to-day responsibilities.

Some nights before I go to bed, I ask myself, “Is it enough?” Is all that we are doing enough?

It is not. We can pat ourselves on the back for the effort, but I’d rather take a pat on the back for more positive outcomes for children.

Atlanta, as well as America, is simply not doing enough to serve every child in every circumstance at every school. One education scholar put it succinctly: “We’re not just failing poor kids. We’re failing all kids.” It’s also been observed that instead of laying a path of opportunity for all, the public education system continues to institutionalize privilege for some.