Commentary: Identify Youth Programs That Work, Then Junk the Rest

October 25, 2013

By Shawn Kachmar as published in the Savannah Morning News

Your Oct. 23 editorial, “Parental involvement: Time for crusade,” that encourages parental involvement in education was exactly on point.

We have highly qualified teachers and administrators in all of our public schools. But they, and the Savannah-Chatham County school district, can only do so much if parents and caregivers are not actively involved in a student’s education.

I also agree with your point, particularly in this era of tight budgets, that the school district cannot and should not be solely responsible for energizing, engaging and educating new parents about the importance of being involved in the education of their children.

And I also agree that the Youth Futures Authority and other similar entities can and should be involved in efforts to promote more parental involvement in raising their children.

I would, however, also take your comments a step further.

Since I joined the school board, I have been advocating for a more coordinated community effort between the school district, city of Savannah, Chatham County and non-governmental entities (the business community, the faith-based community, nonprofits, etc.) to identify those programs that are effective and to rally around them collectively.

The school district, city and county are all spending tax dollars and running or supporting many programs that overlap. Nonprofits in the community also run comparable programs. Some are successful while others are marginal at best.

Let’s collectively identify the best pre-school, drop-out prevention, tutoring, mentoring, job-training, workforce development programs out there, regardless of who runs them, then collectively support and expand those that are succeeding. Discard those that are not succeeding or are marginal at best.

Together we can stretch scarce tax dollars and resources and better invest in and support those programs that are truly making a difference.

The Strive initiative in Cincinnati ( provides a good example of how collective action can be effective.

To Dr. Thomas Lockamy’s credit, the superintendent has initiated many collaborative efforts with other organizations and continuously evaluates school district programs to determine effectiveness. The city, county and local nonprofits also run effective programs, some in collaboration with other organizations.

But until the entire community decides that education truly matters and focuses its collective efforts on those programs that are the most successful and efficient, we are not going to make the systemic changes that we all know we need in our community.

Shawn Kachmar is the District 4 representative on the Savannah-Chatham County public school board.

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