Our commendations to interim ABSS superintendent Dr. Jim Merrill for his announcement this week that he will, in cooperation with local law enforcement officials across the county, have drug dogs patrol the county’s six high schools and seven middle schools.
We have always found Merrill to get to the heart of issues.
It reminds us of the quote from naturalist Henry David Thoreau, “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.”
Merrill is getting to the root of some of the problems in ABSS schools.
Discipline is, and has been, a serious problem.
In fact, in almost every biennial survey of teachers, the failure to implement or enforce discipline is the number one grievance of most teachers – actually ranking higher than typical pay, benefits, or other working conditions.
How can anyone expect teachers to maintain discipline if students are so far afield that drugs of any variety are creeping onto campuses?
Merrill faced a similar challenge when he was here as superintendent between 2000-2006.
During that time, another dimension of the discipline problem became clear: furtive drug sales among students on high school campuses.
Emphasis: on campuses, in most cases.
Merrill authorized an undercover operation at all six high schools and the Sellars-Gunn alternative school.
Over the course of five months, from the beginning of the 2003-2004 school year until February 4, 2004, when the arrests were made, eight undercover law enforcement officials blended in as students on the campuses.
One undercover agent subsequently told The Alamance News that he had been approached on his first day on campus by a student wanting to sell him marijuana.
The operation at Western High School was ultimately interrupted prematurely, law enforcement officials said at the time.
The undercover operations ultimately resulted in the arrests of 51 students from the five high schools and Sellars-Gunn, as well as nine adults.
Merrill knew then the same fundamental fact he clearly knows now: discipline is a prerequisite to an environment enabling academic achievement.
Illegal drugs of any variety on ABSS campuses impede discipline and make academic achievement more difficult, if not impossible, to attain.
Oh, how he wish we could clone him.
Or get him to un-retire. But we know that’s not possible.
We need a superintendent with the same commitment to a long-term vision that prioritizes student achievement in a safe, drug-free environment.