The Fulton County School System recently held its annual State of Our Schools address.
It appears as if it is one of the best districts in the state.
And who can really argue that it isn’t?
It has eight high schools ranked No. 27 and higher in Georgia, according to U.S. News and World Report.
Of its 17 high schools, 11 can boast a 6 or higher on Greatschools.com.
A majority of its schools are better than a majority of schools in the entire state.
Those numbers seem great on paper, but in reality don’t benefit everyone equally.
All of the aforementioned statistics only belong to half of a district, the half you see gaining accolades for the district year in and year out.
The hidden half, a district within a district, isn’t mentioned on the district website, isn’t featured on local or national news and is largely hidden under the academic weight of Milton, Johns Creek and Alpharetta.
This district, separated from the north by Atlanta, is south Fulton.
And I, a honors student at the 17th ranked school in Fulton County, can tell you that the 96,000 students of Fulton County are not all represented equally.
Let’s start with a little story.
We’ll go back 30 years in time, to a place called unincorporated College Park.
It was a rare middle-class black community with good performing schools.
The gems of this community were Feldwood High School and Collins High School, which merged in 1988 to form Banneker High School.
As students graduated, they moved to more successful communities.
You’d think this wouldn’t be so bad.
Even though these new students have fewer resources, the school isn’t any different.
The teachers and staff were still just as caring, right?
I can’t tell you exactly what happened, but the school that alumni tell me about is certainly not the school I encountered when I moved to south Fulton in 2015.
Banneker High now has the lowest graduation rate of regular high schools in Fulton County.
The day I walked into Banneker, the school was understaffed and the school had its fourth new principal in four years.
Schedules weren’t fixed until a month in school, seniors’ recommendation letters wouldn’t be completed and counselors could hardly be reached.
The angriest about all of this, though, are the students.
These students are the absolutely most hard-working I’ve ever seen at any school in my life.
Why are the students who are passing so successful?
The teachers at Banneker care about their students.
A few of us have role models that push us forward.
We’re the hidden among the hidden.
But we are the key to success in south Fulton.
What’s missing is culture.
You can’t make parents do the work for the students; you have to motivate the students to do it themselves.