Concerned about county’s future

I have been somewhat dismayed to read about the county’s grandiose plans for another $35 million SPLOST rendition when on the same day reading about the county’s dismal showing in school graduation rates. Some wise person once declared that those who ignore the mistakes and lessons of history are bound to repeat them. Clayton Countians should heed the warning and take note.

A generation ago citizens were discussing the need for a civic center which would address many of the same goodies its proponents are advancing today. But the plans were defeated and only the dogged determination of a leader such as the late County School Supt. Ernest Stroud pushed into being the Performing Arts Center which is a part of the school system today. Even then, alas, opponents who tried to block those improvements “to be able to hold graduations” were on hand when the facility was dedicated to claim credit for the school system’s advance despite doing everything they could to disrupt it.

Yet there still was no civic center at a time which would have been more encouraging than in today’s economic situation. Despite all of the wonders which might possibly emerge from the availability of a modern civic center, a more solid lasting advance could be made today if attention were given to the alarmingly poor graduation rates compiled by Clayton’s schools. In figures related in the AJC, Clayton shows a dismal 55.8 per cent graduation rate for 2013, which is the lowest in the metro school systems noted. This system does show a gain of 2.27% from the previous year.

Clayton trails both neighboring counties, Henry and Fayette, by wide margins which brutally explains why they have amassed an economic story of progress over the past score of years, and stigmatize us with detrimental statistics which explain our own economic stagnation. Take a closer note that Henry’s graduation rate is 78.5 per cent this year, a gain of 3.07% over the previous year, and Fayette County has an admirable 87.3% graduating rate this year, a hike of 1.87% over the previous year. Both counties show hefty scores over and above Clayton.

Clayton County even trails the average Georgia graduation rate of 71.5 per cent. Further, we even rank below Atlanta (58.6 %) and DeKalb (58.9%). These are not the percentages which are highlighted by local economic boosters. Look no further if you wonder why our job prospects and business attractiveness rank so low.

In the news story former Commissioner Robbie Moore wisely notes the county needs to finish earlier plans for senior centers pledged under other SPLOST issues, and has banked those funds in reserve, but which Clayton does not have general funds to operate presently. How could it operate a civic center? Moore also is quoted for his frustrating experience in trying to fund county operations for which there is no money in the general operating budget. Words of caution that should be noteworthy.

Clayton urgently needs to upgrade its school system by raising teacher pay to attract better instructors who will teach and train better students, and put its tax dollars into avenues which improve its educational product, which is a graduate with a marketable high school diploma. Why not build a school system which would have a long line of the best teachers trying to get a position in Clayton County? It can be done! Don’t take long for that word to get around. Building more structures won’t produce better educated graduates!

An old-time ditty with much wisdom used to be popular, “Don ‘t send me posies, when it’s shoes-es that I need!” Clayton County citizens need to adopt it as their theme song!

Best regards, Jim Wood