Are we ‘chiming in’ or ‘chasing out’?

Published 7:08 pm Thursday, March 31, 2011

The economic future of Troy, Alabama, rests largely in the quality of our public school system. Support for public schools speaks volumes about the unity and mindset of the community — at its core is the belief that an education can lift the prospect of a brighter future for all children, no matter their socioeconomic background. Though I am not a product of Troy schools, I was educated in a public school (Smiths Station) where the life of the community and the identity of its inhabitants developed inside the walls of its classrooms and on its athletic fields. Great schools excite passion, instill pride, and confirm your place in a family lineage that binds forever. I am grateful and very proud of my public school education — and thankful my children are being provided that same foundation in the Troy City Schools.

I would challenge you to name one high growth, high quality of life community in Alabama with underachieving, poorly supported public schools. While you’re at it, name one community that brags to new industry prospects that we have the best private schools in the state. The traditional workforce is not a product of private schools, thus a community forsaking public schools for private schools will kill the tax base, deflate quality of life, and encourage relocation to surrounding communities (i.e. Montgomery). Both public and private schools have an important role in this community, thus the success of both should not come at the expense of the other.

In my economic development field research course, I advise students to evaluate the health of a town through its support for public schools through a simple method. Walk into the local McDonalds (no matter the community) at breakfast, identify the large table of locals who gather there daily, and start complaining about the local public schools. If those folks start agreeing with you, you have serious problems. I also tell the students, if you try this in Smiths Station you better have on your running shoes because they will chase you out of there. So in Troy, are we “chiming in” or “chasing out”?

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In the coming weeks, the Troy City Board of Education will make the important decision as to who will lead the Troy City Schools as Superintendent. Accordingly, the Board selected the Alabama Association of School Boards to manage the search process with a focus on attracting high quality candidates and gathering meaningful information from the community to assist in making this critical hire. In order gain insight from the citizenry, a survey was developed and placed online. It can be found at or a paper copy can be provided at the central office of the Troy City Schools on Elba Highway.

Your participation in this process is essential in order to frame the community perceptions of the system and identify the leadership qualities required for this important position. Even if you do not have children in the system or they attend another school, your input is needed and valued. This is your school system, financed by your tax dollars. Through your participation and support, we will identify a new leader with the vision and leadership skills to take our system to new levels of success and encourage all citizens to put on their running shoes and chase out the naysayers of Troy City Schools with a renewed level of passion, pride and hope.

Dr. Judson C. Edwards is vice president of the Troy City Schools Board of Education.