A recent editorial in the Oconee Enterprise sparked controversy due to its praise of Oconee County schools. Graphic by Valeria Garcia-Pozo.
An Oconee County publication unfairly pats Oconee County schools on the back at the expense of the Clarke County School District.
As members of a school publication, we attempt to offer the most fair, accurate and balanced news that we can to the members of our school and the Athens community.
We believe addressing problems in our district and offering solutions is one of the most effective ways to better our schools and make them safer and more welcoming.
However, we also believe that it is important to acknowledge issues in our wider community, going outside of our district and attempting to facilitate open, fair communication about challenges CCSD faces.
This sentiment echoes that of many families who decided to move away from districts with high rates of minority students. As opposed to contributing their tax dollars to the betterment of local schools, they think it better to populate other areas entirely.
This is called white flight.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, it is “the departure of whites from places (such as urban neighborhoods or schools) increasingly or predominantly populated by minorities”.
It creates haven-like, “utopic” environments for would-be CCSD families who can afford to move their children to neighborhoods in Watkinsville, where the the estimated household median income was $59,813 in 2015 — more than double the $27,488 estimated household median income for Athens in 2015.
Many parents argue this is simply an attempt to get a better education for their children. What’s wrong with that?
Well, as evidenced by the piece that treats the “occasional sketching of a swastika on a student’s desk” as a minor offense, a lack of exposure to different cultural, racial and ethnic groups may result in ignorant and discriminatory actions that receive no major disciplinary consequences.
If their school districts don’t rebuke hate-filled actions like defacing school property with Nazi imagery, how will students learn that their actions are wrong?
In the CCSD, when a student did so much as take to social media to make offensive comments in light of the Charlottesville protests, Superintendent Dr. Demond Means sent out a communication to parents and faculty detailing how this was acknowledged and handled by officials.
Additionally, student achievements are always worth celebrating. Oconee’s district average SAT score of 1151 out of 1600, according to an Oconee Schools webpage, is impressive.
However, high test scores aren’t necessarily a reflection on educational opportunities, although they are the foundation.
Getting the best scores possible involves test preparation outside the classroom. Whether it be classes, books, or tutoring, this costs money — costs that parents who live in more affluent areas are more likely to afford.
None of the supposedly “light” issues listed in Oconee County are insignificant.
Unfulfilled individual education plans (IEPs), inequities between schools, and racism and homophobia are issues which officials at the school and district level should be working diligently to fix.
These problems deserve attention, and until they are fixed, it is unfair to students in both districts to be sanctimonious.
The issue of white flight can be solved if those who have the opportunity make the conscious choice to contribute their talents, their tax dollars and their children to districts such as the CCSD.
Having the best educational opportunities possible begins with addressing the problems at hand and working to solve them, not making light of them to count your blessings.