If not now, when?

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 16, 2007

News-Herald Editorial

Are you embarrassed? We are and if you’re not – maybe you should be.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction released a four-year cohort graduation rate in February and the news wasn’t cause for celebration.

In our state, only 68 percent of students graduate four years after entering high school. That means roughly two in five students in North Carolina that enter high school won’t graduate four years later.

If you live here in the three counties of Bertie, Hertford and Northampton, the news is even worse.

In Northampton County, the two high schools graduated roughly 62 percent of their students. Northampton-West had a higher rate at 65.9 while Northampton-East graduated 58.3 percent.

Bertie High School graduated 63.5 percent of the students who entered those halls in four years.

While all of those were bad, none of them compared to the paltry 48.9 percent of students graduated by Hertford County High School. That number is sad.

These numbers are cause for alarm, not just in Hertford County, but all over the state. If there are school districts which graduate 49 percent of the students, it stands to reason there have to be those who graduate 80-plus percent to make up the difference in the state average.

Why not here?

HCHS Principal Jerry Simmons says, “If not now, when?” His question is valid.

We’ve changed everything in Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties. We’ve changed school board members, superintendents, principals, directors in central office and even teachers in classrooms. What has been the benefit to students thus far?

Superintendents have failed. Principals have failed. Teachers have failed.

Maybe it’s time that we realize the fault doesn’t lie just in the central office of the public school districts or on the shoulders of members of the collective boards of education.

Perhaps it is we who have failed our children.

It seems that maybe instead of fighting political battles and insisting that superintendents, board members and principals come from certain a county or race or status or fraternity, we should have been concerned about keeping our children in school and helping them be successful there.

Do the school officials bear responsibility for the failure? Sure, they do. But the blame also lies with us, the parents and citizens of Bertie, Hertford and Northampton counties.

The time is now to act. We can either stop fighting political battles and actually sit down and work in the best interest of children or we can continue to slip further and further behind the rest of the state.

If you want to know why we use the phrase “Virginia does want us and North Carolina doesn’t know we exist,” take a look at the data released by the Department of Public Instruction.

We have to do better. We have to do it now. Our children deserve it.

If not now, when?