Gov. Mike Huckabee made sure Viola High School, home of the Class A State Champions, was among his stops March 22 as part of his 75-county tour to promote the Next Step plan for improving public education in the state.
Huckabee said, "I'll put my record up against anybody's as far as being committed to public education. That is where my heart and head is."Students from kindergarten to 12th grade assembled in the gymnasium and listened to Huckabee speak about public education. He congratulated the boys' basketball team for their recent triumph and said, "You need to be very proud of this team and what they have accomplished for Fulton County."
The Next Step plan is an outline the governor is trying to get implemented. The blueprint includes professional staff accountability and compensation, academic standards, curriculum and teaching methods, communicating results to all stakeholders, broadening the state's charter school law, financial reporting, improved preschool and health care access for children, inclusion and expansion of broad-based opportunities for students in the arts, and developing partnerships between business, industry, postsecondary schools, workforce education and public schools.
He said the big picture of what can happen in public education was proven when Viola showed they can compete successfully. He said students from small schools can compete academically, too. He said those students who wish to stay in their community keep the community vibrant.
Goals for public education is to ensure consistency in every district to make education strong. He said he wants to ensure all standards are the same everywhere.
He said when a student enters school a clock goes off. He said it is necessary to do testing in schools to find out how the student is doing and make adjustments where needed.
He said students need to be grateful to their teachers and recognize the sacrifices they make. He explained teachers can teach more effectively if students show respect and have good classroom behavior.
To the students and faculty he said, "You have proven in Viola that you have done great things." He said strong determination can accomplish a lot.
The governor said the country has had tough times since Sept. 11; the economy was hit hard after the terrorism attacks. He said, "We have come to know what freedom means." He added we have freedoms and liberties that other countries will never have.
After the student assembly Huckabee met with faculty members in the school library for further discussion on the Next Step program.
He said steps have been taken to get schools on the right track, but if parents fail to do their job, then problems arise.
Children need motivation and role models, he said. He added improving educational quality requires raising awareness and getting the public involved. He said the point is never to give up on children.
Huckabee requested teachers review his outline on the Next Step program and give him feedback.