No. 684



Over the past several months it has been my good fortune to have interaction with a fantastic high school here in our community, St. Joseph High School. This is a Catholic High School with 237 students (506 K-12). The principal, Joe Mallett, tells me their graduation rate is 99 percent. I might add that we have two other school systems here in our community who are doing a great job as well -- Conway Christian Schools with 540 students K-12, and the Conway Public Schools with more than 9,000 students K-12. Everything is relative, but we are blessed to have some of the very best schools in the state.
When we were planning our “Bookcase Literacy Banquet,” a friend told me I should get in touch with St. Joseph High School, as their students are required to perform so many hours of community service each year. It was through another friend, who is Catholic, that I did get in touch with them and I learned something from her that gave me some insights regarding the role of parents that helped me see why their program is so successful. Keep in mind that this is a private school and these parents pay tuition in addition to paying taxes for their children’s education. Granted, most of these parents are hard working, manage their money and can afford the extra costs, but others do so at considerable personal sacrifice.
Here is what my friend told me that really hit home: “It is indeed a sacrifice for our family to pay to send three children to private school – but it is one that I would get a second job if I needed to in order to keep them in that school. The primary reason I send them is the fact they can say ‘God’ there and pray daily and see their peers praying and are bombarded with messages that build their moral character. The parent network is strong – we all look out for each other’s kids and we don’t hesitate to call another parent to let them know if we saw their child doing something we know the parent wouldn’t approve of.”
My friend went on to share something else that really underscores the solid foundation of their curriculum and their philosophy. She said, “And while our ACT scores are much higher than state and national averages – I always remember the words of one teacher that has carried on throughout the years – she told someone that ‘we focus on preparing our children for Heaven – not – Harvard’ which says to me that the higher priority is faith. I’m sure there are many out there who wouldn’t agree with that philosophy.”
From my perspective, and I have been working on this for many years, I know that private schools can set priorities and guidelines that are not available to public schools, but the reason I have shared this is the role of parents in education, be they private or public. For many years I have attributed much of our schools’ poor performance and lack of success to teachers, but finally came to realize that most of the blame should be directed to parents. Many of the parents of public school students are doing a great job, but we need more, if we are to have quality schools all across our nation.
What I said earlier is not intended to pit one school or school system against another, because I would never do that, but what I am saying is that we can learn from each other. Teachers, schools and parents are very important, because what we teach our children today and tomorrow will determine our nation’s success in the years and decades to come. As I have said many times, the key to a student’s success is teaching them to read, before they start to school.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)