One year ago, when I became superintendent of Gary Community School Corp., I pledged to be open and accountable to every individual in the public school community.
Throughout the previous year, I’ve met so many families and providers who have forwarded their suggestions to improve our public education system. A great number of people have taken advantage of the open forums and social media to propose systemic solutions that can prepare our children for higher education and more prosperous careers.
Together, we’ve managed a wide variety of issues, ranging from simple transportation routes to complex student needs. As a result, I’ve never been more hopeful that our efforts to tackle the greatest matter, attracting the best and brightest teachers, will be solved by our ability to develop innovative partnerships and resolutions.
As the primary face of education, teachers need our support more than ever. I recently read a nationwide report released earlier this month by the National School Supply and Equipment Association that supports a trend I’ve dealt with throughout the past decade: last year, half of the money spent on school supplies and materials was directly paid for by teachers in the public school system.
Combined with the economic hardships facing young adults generally, it showcases why teaching has become a less attractive profession at large.
We need to support our teachers with new models, such as corporate partnerships that incentivize brighter, young people to join the teaching ranks with the proper resources to succeed.
Sure, funding is one of the biggest issues in public education in this era. It’s the everlasting elephant in the room, but money is not — and never will be — the sole solution. That fact is as true today as it was yesterday.
Look at the nation as a whole. We spend more than generally every other country on public education, yet the United States ranks 17th on Pearson’s Index of cognitive skills and educational attainment. Sometimes, gaps in funding are an opportunity for change.
Public education is not dead. We can’t afford to be wasteful anymore, but we can continue to foster better partnerships throughout the community to encourage our teachers with innovative solutions. Preparing them for their classrooms should be a joint effort by all stakeholders.
We must rely on corporate partnerships, digital platforms and parental support, among a host of other collaborations.
The way students learn is changing. The way we support our teachers needs to keep pace, if not outperform. They deserve more innovative and collaborative solutions, which we’re capable of providing.
My belief in Gary resides in my familiarity with the spirit of its residents. Growing up, I witnessed it from all types of people throughout the city. I’ll never forget a time many years ago, when my father needed to protect his car from heavy snow. After he planned to build a garage, he didn’t contract it out; he did it himself. I’ve carried those kinds of moments throughout my journey. It’s an example of the city’s historical steeliness.
Looking forward to the upcoming school year, we need to continue to rebuild the value of support for our teachers and, in doing so, become a beacon of determination for other educational systems.