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June 10, 2008 - Working In Clayton County schools

Working In Clayton County schools

In 1996, I moved from Philadelphia, Pa., to provide a better quality of living for my family. I came to Georgia as a middle school and high school teacher, as well as a public school administrator.

My plans were to work as a public school principal, and I was offered a job as an assistant principal at a high achool in Stone Mountain, but before I started the job at the high school, I was offered my dream job, a full-time position as a professor at Devry University. Of course, I took the job as a professor. I worked for Devry from 1996 to 2007.

I had to leave Devry in 2007 because their enrollment was down. As a result, for the first time in a long time I was faced with a true challenge. Do I go back into the public education system or do I accept a position at a local college.

At that time, there was a lot of talk about how Clayton County public schools were failing an enormous number of kids and there were gangs prevalent in the schools. I wanted to make a difference, and I knew I could. I wanted to see first-hand what was going on, and I knew the only way to do this was to get on the front line, and accept a job in the classroom as a teacher. Therefore, I called several high schools in Clayton County. I spoke with the Assistant Principal of Morrow High School, Lavian Coleman, and he informed me that he had a position available for me to teach ninth-grade math.

I knew it would be a challenge; Mr. Coleman knew it would be a challenge, and in my interview, he reminded me that teaching college and working with ninth graders are two different assignments. I told him about my experiences working in the inner city public schools of Philadelphia, where gangs and violence were prevalent, but we had great success with students learning in the midst of that type of environment, and I could handle the challenge.

I came into Clayton County on Oct. 5, 2007, I entered the classroom and the students were betting that I would not last one week. They told me they'd had several teachers since August and no one stayed with them. I informed them that I was here to stay and they would be successful -- if they listened.

Week after week went by, and they saw I was serious, and they became interested in learning. After two months of service, some of my students did not want to leave my classroom after their 55-minute block of instruction.

Contrary to popular belief, the students in Clayton County come from respectable parents; these kids are great kids; they do want to learn, and the Morrow High administrators -- Principal Patricia Hill, Assistant Principal Coleman and Assistant Principal Charles M. House -- love the students and work hard to provide a proper environment and the best quality education they can for each student. I saw a commitment from the teachers, staff, and administrators to do this on a daily basis.

What is being reported in the newspapers negatively about Clayton County public schools, the board, the administrators, and teachers is so far from the truth. The people who go to work daily to educate our children have a genuine love for educating all of the students in Clayton County. I am here to report that the students want to learn, they can learn and they do have a desire to learn.

Evidence of this: Morrow High School just graduated the class of 2008 and the students in that class have received more $1.4 million dollars in scholarship offers to attend schools of higher learning. That is success not failure.

My hope is that the people who are looking at Clayton County's accreditation will think about the students first, the teachers and the administrators, and understand that Clayton County is a great place to work and live.

I know first-hand, because I am not speaking from the outside. I am speaking from the inside. I am committed to working with our new Superintendent, Dr. John Thompson, Area Superintendent Derrick Manning and board members to help Clayton County become one of the best counties in public education in the country.

TYRONE K. PELZER

Fayetteville

Math Teacher

Morrow High School