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Torrance Choates: A united community better for education

In this week’s column, I will be discussing the importance of bringing the entire community together despite their choice of schools within the community, as well as discussing the merits of each option.  The advantages and disadvantages of public versus private and now charter is a discussion we are likely to hear a lot about in the upcoming years.  Each has its advantages and each has it supporters and detractors.
Private schools tend to ensure parental participation through the act of paying tuition for their child to attend.  Parents’ have a financial stake in the success of their children and are thus motivated in this way to have them succeed. Parental involvement in this case is more or less automatic. But, of course, parents must be able to afford the tuition and costs associated with a private education.

Charter Schools offer a greater freedom within the curriculum and new ways of learning can be experienced. In the State of Georgia, students and parents now enjoy the benefit of State support for tuition and fees. But structuring that curriculum to meet state standards can be a challenge, as state-funded charter schools must also meet and even exceed those standards. Charter schools also tend to be limited in the sports and extracurricular activities they offer.
Public education is the system I grew up in and which the majority of people have, as well. Public education offers opportunities for people of all financial circumstances. My parents had just enough money to keep everything stable and still I had a good education. Public education keeps its doors open for everyone to take advantage of a free education. Public schools also tend to offer greater opportunity for teacher development through training and special programs designed to have each teacher achieve their maximum potential. They also tend to offer more in the way of sports and extracurricular activities to round-out a student’s’ education.
Having been a product of the public school system, and having seen what they have done for people like me, I can’t help but be a fan of public education. While under fire from a variety of sources, I believe that public educators do far more than people believe. Of course, this is my professional opinion and one that others may not share.
Despite which school parents decide to send their children to, educator’s jobs have evolved into something far more than just teaching.  Some of the other roles that teachers perform include,   nurse, doctor, counselor, detective, investigator, cheerleader, advocates, mandated reporters, and psychologist.  All educators from all systems are an invaluable resource for the future of our community.
Sumter County is unique in that there is a private school, a charter school, and a public school system, leaving many parents to wonder what is best for their children. We have seen many who began in the public schools end up in the private schools and many who begin in the private schools end up in the public.  The decision is always a difficult one.
There are some people out there who are divisive and would like to continue to make the blood boil between black and white and rich and poor, seeing school choice as a point of contention among the races.  I ask that the community does not become misled and get caught up in the hysteria.  We have to work together and unite this community.  Our students and children should always come first.
All in all, it’s important that all systems, whether it be public education, charter, or private education, be the best they can at educating tomorrow’s future, “Our Students”.  The bottom-line is they are all of our children and all of our tomorrows.
In my next column, I will discuss how we can bring all of our students together when there is division.   Just remember: “Better Schools Build Better Communities.” and also, “A Thriving Community Requires a Thriving Public School System.”

Torrance Choates, Ed.D., is superintendent of Sumter County Schools.