Updated: May 29
As an educator, I have a strong belief that a community is only as strong as its educational systems. In this article I will describe my vision of how quality K-12 education works to develop a city and its residents. An educational system that works collectively with the students, the families, the educational professionals, community organizations, and the government leaders in the community is the most successful. I believe in funding the schools as opposed to funding the child (vouchers.) And I believe that post-secondary education is necessary to prepare for most careers.
Why invest in a first-rate school system?
Our children deserve the best education possible.
Our teachers, counselors, nurses, custodians, secretaries and other support staff are professionals who deserve support and resources in order to provide all our students with a quality learning environment with the best student outcomes.
Our growth depends on graduates who care about inclusive communities, schools, and teachers who supported their development and want to return to our community.
Our local goals to increase the number of residents with post high school education levels requires successful graduates and will, therefore, choose to continue learning.
Our community needs graduates who feel confident about their success and a future where dreams are possible.
Our community needs graduates who want to achieve their dreams in Johnson City.
Our community needs a diverse, educated citizenry and workforce to build a vibrant Johnson City and stay engaged in a democratic society.
The path to a strong and growing Johnson City runs directly through our schools. There is no detour, no alternate route. To say that “Our children are our future” is an absolute truth. Additionally, quality education is a major part of the social and cultural development of children and young adults.
Johnson City public schools are a “Point of Pride.” The city funds a top ten Performing District in Tennessee. Our public school system of 11 schools has been repeatedly recognized by the state. In the 2018-2019 Annual Report, five had been deemed Reward schools, a measure of academic excellence and accountability, while eight schools qualified for Level 5 Distinction, an impact measure on year to year academic growth for students. Others may wish to educate their children by choosing from several fine K-12 private schools as well as a home school association. (See 2018-2019 annual report www.jcschools.org ) The residents of Johnson City do “Expect the Best” of their schools. For our schools to achieve the best Johnson City leaders must give the best.
Johnson City is a community rich with post-secondary educational opportunities. It is home to East Tennessee State University, a comprehensive higher education institution of 15,000 students, 140 degree programs including graduate colleges of medicine, nursing, pharmacy, and physical therapy. A campus of Northeast State Community College is now located in downtown Johnson City. Community colleges in Tennessee provide free tuition to high school seniors through the TN Promise program. And just minutes from Johnson City is Milligan University, recently elevated from college to university status in 2020. And yet according to data from 2017 posted by the First Tennessee Development District, almost 42% of adults over age 25 in Washington County have only a high school degree or less. The higher the education level of a community, the more vibrant the community.
To maximize and promote excellence in our K12 systems, there are leadership roles I believe all commissioners can play: monetary support for high quality public schools, palpable respect for all teachers and schools, and voicing the importance of education and life-long learning.
If elected, I will support the development of a collaboration with educational leaders in the city and the county to increase the average education level of adults and will work to add that goal to next year’s City-Wide Goals statements. ETSU’s Clemmer College boasts national experts in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) Programs, literacy, and a Center of Excellence in Early Childhood Education. The Niswonger Foundation with a focus on educational innovation and achievement is nearby. Bringing local experts to the table with local citizens to develop a strategy and plan to elevate the educational level of the community is a leadership role waiting for a driver. Let’s get on the bus!