The summer has flown by, and we could hardly believe that it was time for our annual back-to-school article. Both Mayor Ronnie and I have spent time in the classroom, and reminisced about everything from what he called “that distinctive smell of 5th and 6th grade kids who have just been running around hard on the playground for an hour,” to my having to delicately sidestep certain suggestions in the national Mexican government 5th grade curriculum on how to effectively educate girls about the anatomy of the opposite gender.
Many people are not aware that Mayor Ronnie’s undergrad degree is in education, and that he taught in West Limestone before he went to Vietnam, as well as in New Hope when he got back. “Back then, we had to pretty much do a cookie-cutter approach to teaching science. I am glad that now teachers have the opportunity to be more creative,” he said. One thing has always been clear, and it is that he is in the corner of teachers, kids, and administrators. He told me that already he sees lights on at Athens Elementary classrooms when he gets home at night from various meetings. “You know they are cleaning, decorating, and re-arranging to get ready for August 30,” the mayor said. “And, I don’t think I have ever met a teacher that I would consider to be genuinely called to the profession that does not dig into their own pockets to purchase supplies,” I said. He returned with, “The passion of teachers amazes me.” Then, being the finance guy, he whipped out his calculator, plugged in the average starting salary of a teacher, figured the average tax rate, take home pay, house payment, car payment, food costs and said, “How do they do this with what they take home?” I nodded, and said, “God bless our teachers.”
I started in with how, even after all these years, I get a clutch-and-catch in my throat when I see these “littles” who are not even half as big as their backpacks standing in the dark waiting for the bus in the morning, or hopping off the bus when they get home. (Please see Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson’s reminder for everyone, especially drivers, to be extra alert in school zones and around school buses. Remember, buses are yellow for a reason, and that is the universal color of caution.)
“This is a special year,” said Mayor Ronnie as he spoke of the upcoming season of the Mayor’s Youth Commission. “Because it’s the Bicentennial, we are going to spend more time than usual on the history of our area, especially as it applies to how government was formed.” He also spoke with enthusiasm about the new high school, the new Athens Bible School, the renovation of the Houston Memorial Library, and the Scout House getting finished. “A lot of people have done a lot of work to bring these blessings to our town, and I believe it is going to be a great year,” he said. Then it was time to pray, and for Ronnie to roll. By: Ali Elizabeth Turner