By Mike Mahathy
“Thus we began. With a sense of adventure, with a determination to make the most of a situation, we started out…looking forward to giving the children of Oak Ridge the best system we could develop.”
So said Dr. A.H. Blankenship years after accepting the role of starting the Oak Ridge school system.
From the very beginnings in 1943, Oak Ridge leaders wanted the best for their children. They choose a road less traveled by in this area.
Decades have passed, but there has remained one constant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee: a great school system where students have excelled in academics, the arts, music, athletics, and have gone on to be productive Americans.
So here we are in the fall of 2014, 72 years later. Our long road has come to a “fork.” We have two directions in front of us, two directions to take our school system. Two roads.
One road leads to mediocrity; the other road leads to excellence.
One road leads to fewer than 20 percent college or career ready; the other leads to 90 percent college or career ready.
One road leads to despairing buildings; the other road leads to modernized facilities.
One road leads to good teachers; the other leads to great teachers.
One road leads to only top performers doing well; the other road leads to hope for all students.
One road leads to basic arts; the other leads to distinguished arts programs.
One road leads to 19 average ACT scores; the other road leads to 27 average ACT scores.
One road leads to a run-of-mill marching band; the other leads to the award-winning Wildband.
One road leads to just another high school; the other road leads to a preeminent Top 10 high school.
One road leads to average; the other to superior.
One road leads to children facing little hope of doing better in life; the other road leads to endless possibilities.
One road leads to graduates doing what they have to; the other leads to graduates doing what they want to.
One road leads to a less viable Oak Ridge; the other leads to a vibrant city.
We have two roads to choose from before us. I know which road our school system should follow!
Our family moved to Oak Ridge in 2005 so that our daughters could attend Oak Ridge Schools and also be raised in a diverse city with many offerings. Since moving to Oak Ridge, I have been involved with supporting students in the schools. I have attended many School Board and City Council meetings to support and advocate for our students and teachers because we must provide our children the same opportunities to pursue their dreams in a safe environment and within our means.
Let’s continue what A. H. Blankenship began.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and we —We took the one less traveled by, And that will make all the difference.” [Robert Frost, paraphrased]
Mahathy is a candidate for the Oak Ridge Board of Education in the November 4 municipal election.