According to Me: Excellence is not arbitrarily obtained

Perhaps the most dangerous thing in the world is the arbitrary man, the individual who moves through life reacting to his environment rather than directing it. The arbitrary man lacks purpose and vision and is, in general, a danger to himself and those around him.

These truths all become more prevalent when applied to a system. A system without vision and direction is frenetic, chaotic and hopeless. It becomes a product of arbitrary actions that create unfavorable outcomes and further damaging reactions.

As the Demopolis City Schools system moves forward, it must do so with a clear vision or risk becoming a frenetic, arbitrary system that is little more than a danger to itself.

There is a major decision sitting in front of DCS, one that could conceivably shape the system for decades to come. If Demopolis is to procure a superintendent that has and can clearly communicate and direct a vision for the system, then Demopolis City Schools could be positioned to catapult toward the top of the state’s educational constructs.

As much as he was vilified and as many mistakes as he may or may not be guilty of making, former superintendent Dr. Al Griffin in no way left the DCS cupboard bare. The system has a bevy of Advanced Placement offerings to go along with dual enrollment options and a budding career tech system that caters to a myriad of student interests and needs.

Add to that the collection of first-rate teachers that still remain in the system and Demopolis could easily take a tremendous leap forward in a short amount of time. Or, it could do the opposite. It all depends on the vision of leadership and the requisite wherewithal to realize it.

There are still facility issues that need to be addressed. As much as some probably do not want to consider it, the school system would probably do well to consider building a new high school along Highway 80 and shifting its middle school away from the Cedar Avenue building and surrounding area that can no longer comfortably accommodate the 500+ students that utilize its services.

There are still plenty of hires to make with teachers and coaches and support personnel. Each and every one of those decisions is important as DCS needs individuals who fit in line with its system goals. But those goals must be clearly defined. When goals are defined, expectations are defined. When expectations are defined, the system and its components can self regulate in view of a shared destination.

That destination should be excellence: an excellent learning environment for students, an excellent work environment for faculty and staff, an excellent economic development tool for the city, an excellent education that opens up plenty of doors for graduates. That sounds like an excellent vision. Now here’s hoping the individual hired as superintendent of Demopolis City Schools knows what the road map to those goals looks like and can navigate the system in that direction.

Jeremy D. Smith is managing partner of The West Alabama Watchman. He has covered news and sports in Demopolis since 2008. His column, According to Me, appears weekly on