Working for the National Education Association, I have had the privilege of seeing schools and meeting district leaders across our state and nation. In my five months away from Sampson County, I have been homesick on more than one occasion. Above all, I am reminded that our small stretch of country is unique. While we are years away from having a Mall or Metrorail, that is not what makes a city great. Truly accessing where we are and where we want to go is what makes any city, large or small, great.
Never meeting a stranger, I often like to tell folks I encounter about Clinton, North Carolina. Surprisingly, in regards to our politics and education, our city is recognized. Recently, while in Alexandria, Virginia, I had dinner with a seasoned school district administrator rounding off the better part of a half-century in school leadership. This 75 year old conservative Virginian and proclaimed finance guru has been in administration since the age of 28. During what turned into a 2-hour conversation on numerous topics, he remarked on his mantra, as a leader that governed his tenure helping improve many large and small districts. Simply put, “Make your needs match your priorities”. He applied this to every level of his operation. While he was referring to education, those sentiments are farther reaching.
In Clinton, we pride ourselves on many things; however, they often do not match our true needs. There is often times a large gap between our priorities and our needs. Taking an honest inventory of ourselves, and our community, we have needs that are not priorities. Many things needed in our area are often times underfunded, while programs that benefit a smaller percentage receive immediate attention and resources. The intent of this reflection is not to point a finger, but to open an eye to what is really keeping us from truly progressing. We must recognize that blinding the left eye does not empower the right. A commitment to re-prioritize what is important in our County and City is a process that for years has been skirted but not addressed. This process is larger than an elected board, or governing body. It involves open discussion and real dialogue, not just “public remarks”. Anyone that has ever restored a home knows that regardless of what room you favor, you have to fix the entire house. We all love our home and as we continue to preserve certain rooms, let us make sure that we take care of the entire house. Cutting corners cheats the structure and overtime there will be a collapse.