GARY | A Gary native and former Rhodes Scholar returned home Monday to encourage teachers and administrators to develop the relationship with students that will help children be successful.
Wirt High School graduate Carlton Long talked about the teachers he knew who helped shape and encourage him. Long is co-founder, along with his wife Monique Lawrence-Long, of Lawrence-Long and Co., an international educational consulting company devoted to equity, access and excellence in K-12 and higher education.
Long has taught Contemporary Race Relations at Goldsmith's College, London University. He worked as a Spanish-English interpreter in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. He was an assistant professor of political science at Columbia University from 1990 to 1996, where he designed and taught a series of undergraduate and graduate school lectures and seminars. At Columbia University, Carlton also was nominated for the Van Doren Outstanding Professor Award in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1994.
Long, the youngest of nine children, said students don't sit at the feet of dignitaries but at the feet of teachers.
"That child returns day after day, week after week, to sit at the feet of teachers," he said. "They trust us with their hearts. You hold their hearts. What you say can cut or help students to soar. Students believe you know them, and you want a relationship with them. As educators, we are special. We are the profession that makes all other professions possible."
Senators Earline Rogers, D-Gary, and Lonnie Randolph, D-East Chicago, along with Rep. Vernon Smith, D-East Chicago, also encouraged teachers to step up.
"You need to understand what time it is," Smith said. "I'm going to take off my legislative hat and put on my Christian hat. Prayer is powerful. You have to have a vision for the Gary Community School Corp. and hold on to it."
Gary School Board President Rosie Washington encouraged teachers and administrators to "Stand your ground" for these schools. "Stand for excellence," she said.
Gary teachers and administrators also had an opportunity to hear from 2013 West Side graduate Christopher Williams, who said he has autism but was able to move from special education to the honors program, graduating as salutatorian with a 4.6 grade point average.
Meanwhile, Gary Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt has held a variety of back-to-school activities to get the school year off to a good start, including a retreat for administrators and transportation forums. The district was plagued by bus problems last year, regarding the pick up and drop off of students, but those issues appear to be resolved this year.