It wouldn't be very difficult to merge the two, the taxpayers would save about $1 million a year in the process, and educational opportunities for all students might be significantly improved.
The consultants also pooh-poohed the main spoken argument against a consolidation, noting: "The concern expressed ... that some existing school facilities should be or need to be closed appears not to be grounded in fact since current facilities do not have the excess capacity that would allow for large numbers of additional students."
Additionally, the consultants found that educationally, despite efforts to draw distinctions between the two, there is practically no difference in test scores, graduation rates, dropout rates and "other outcome variables." It concluded, as Greater Romans mostly know, that they've got two superior school systems that are "performing at
high levels and that students are for the most part, being served well, albeit somewhat differently."
IN FACT, THE STUDY made a point of saying that "At times, reports in the media comparing achievement test scores or other data may serve to exaggerate system or school performance differences that are statistically not significant or perhaps misleading when certain factors
(i.e. percentage of students participating) are taken into
Another way to look at this is to say that, should there be a consolidation, it would be impossible for one system to "drag the other one down" because they're already both on an equally high par.
The administrative and teaching staffs should take considerable pride in that evaluation, particularly given the sharply different demographic profile of the student populations.
However, after all this, the consultants also divined that there's absolutely no chance of a merger being approved by the electorate in the near future because massive numbers -- 80 percent or more -- opposed the idea ... apparently for no good reason whatsoever. And, of course, this dooms any hope of a governmental (Rome, Floyd County and maybe Cave Spring) consolidation, which cannot proceed legally with two separate school systems in existence even though the general perception is that the voters might well approve that kind of merger.
ASSUMING additional millions in savings might be found there, in addition to the estimated $1 million annually a schools merger might bring, local residents appear to be paying a very high price in property taxes for an apparently unreasonable attitude. That might be kept in
mind before citizens sound off about high local property taxes and blame them on their governmental leaders. The electorate appears to prefer high taxes to efficiency.
The Virginia-based consultants, perhaps planning a relocation to Greater Rome, tiptoed around the possible causes of this obstinate opposition to a school merger, just like most natives do. Other than an expression of utter bewilderment as to why Rome City Schools cling to
being under a decades-old federal desegregation order when they don't have to, and when most other systems in the South have taken action to successfully petition the courts for dismissal based on integration accomplishment, the racial bugaboo never appears.
Lamentably -- and this taints some whites and some blacks alike -- and as this study plainly proves, there is nothing other than latent racial nervousness that stands between the two systems and a merger that would apparently be beneficial to all students and most certainly to the
IF ELECTED government officials have a bit of courage, it might be worth spending some of this "outside consultant" money on an exploration of the community's latent racial fears and reservations. Dragging those out into the daylight might be even more worthwhile than the dispelling of the general mythology surrounding the book-learning
end of the educational equation. Frankly, some whites and some blacks still have a lot of growing up to do in that regard -- while Hispanics need to overcome their insular attitudes and become more involved in the overall community process.
While the gist of the study follows observations made in this space earlier, it is well worth reading in full -- particularly if you have a child in Greater Rome, or plan on having children to be raised here. The hefty analysis, (which this newspaper plans to post on its web site when an electronic version becomes available), contains much interesting detail -- most of which provides even more ammunition to the small band of brave souls who have been fighting so valiantly, for so long, for what now simply appears to represent common sense.
Boiling it all down, the conclusion is simply this: Merging the schools would be easy to do, save money, improve what's offered students. The opponents don't have a leg to stand on -- at least not one they care to bare in public.
Next: What the consultants believe two good school systems could accomplish as one better school system