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Dr. Ronald W. Garner, Superintendent

Public Education: A Champion for Every Child

Memories.  I have so many good ones.  When I reminisce, my grandmother’s impact on my life is overwhelming.  The extent of her formal education came to a conclusion in the seventh grade.  She never had a driver’s license. I remember jams and jellies being canned, blackberries being picked, and June bugs flying on a piece of thread confiscated from her sewing machine in the living room.  Words cannot properly articulate all that she taught me in life. She’s gone now and I miss her so much. She was so proud when I graduated from high school, but she was especially proud of the fact that I was the first in my family, from both sides, to attend college.  How did I know? It really wasn’t anything that she ever said to me. It was more how she looked at me. She was proud!   

You see, I came from good stock.  Good, hard working stock. My mom and dad worked their fingers to the bone in the textile industry to provide for my family.  I never really remember believing anything less than the realization that if you worked hard and received a quality education that the future was guaranteed by the American Dream.  I am so thankful for the American Dream. More specifically, I am thankful for the public education that paved the way for my American Dream. I am thankful that my teachers never discounted me or my abilities because of the clothes that I wore or which side of the tracks I lived on.  While I am the first in my family to graduate from college, I won’t be the last. I don’t know what I was more proud of on May 7th, 1994, the undergraduate degree that I received from The University of South Carolina - Spartanburg or the pride that I saw on the faces of my mother, father, and grandmother.  I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that moment was what they worked their entire lives to achieve. Their son/grandson graduated from a public university with a degree in Secondary Education. That degree changed the entire trajectory of my life. Thank you, Mama. Thank you, Daddy. Thank you, Grandma.  Your hard work, sacrifice, and commitment provided me with opportunities that you never had. I am forever grateful.

I emphatically see public education as the great equalizer, the great provider of opportunities, and the pathway to a better tomorrow for all children.  I believe so much in this statement that I have dedicated the last 26 years of my life to promoting the fundamental importance of receiving an education.  As a teacher, coach, and administrator, I have seen thousands of lives changed through a high quality public education.  

What do I mean when I refer to public education as the great equalizer?  Let’s face it. Not everyone gets the same kind of start in life. I recently had the life changing opportunity to meet General Colin Powell.  I actually had breakfast with the man who served under Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, Clinton, and Bush 43. It will forever go down as one of the great honors of my life to have had this privilege.  His story is amazing. He is the son of Jamaican immigrants, born in Harlem and raised in the South Bronx. He went to public schools his entire life and served this country with pride, honor, and distinction.  During my conversation with him, my impression of this hero was that, even when he was in the presence of Heads of States, he never forgot where he came from or the value of the education he received in public schools.  That is why he started his work with America’s Promise which still goes on today. He believed in America because She believed in him. He truly believes in the American Dream. He believes that through a good quality education and hard work that you could change the world.  That is exactly what he did! Public education is the great equalizer. I don’t want to run the risk of being negative, but private school education is not available to everyone, especially those I mentioned earlier who start life from a position of disadvantage.

Public education is the great provider of opportunities.  Public education makes doors open. It provides choices. It broadens one’s perspectives to think beyond the here and now.  My grandmother’s choices were limited. My parents’ choices were limited. They encouraged me to stay in school so I would have more choices than they had.  I admire The Greatest Generation and have the utmost respect for everyone who grew up during this time. Quite frankly, they built this great country. The work that was done during and after World War I and World War II is some of the most amazing and powerful accomplishments ever made in world history.  As a matter of fact, the value of a quality public education was born during this era. They instilled the value of education into the very fiber of this great nation. I believe that one of the greatest ideas born during this time is the simple fact that education opens doors and provides opportunities.  

A reality check is underway.  We no longer live in the 20th century.  The 21st century has started - with or without you.  All children live in a smaller world, a global society in which long distances aren’t that far anymore.  The key word for me is ALL. All children deserve a high quality education. Why? It’s simple. Public education is the great equalizer.  It is the provider of opportunities. Tomorrow will be better for it. 

Just like the memories of my grandmother’s kitchen are so vivid to me, our children’s memories will serve them the same way.  What will our children say about our priorities as they relate to public education? Will they say we placed the same value on it that the Greatest Generation so clearly established?

I have two simple suggestions.  One, pay teachers more, because other than our children, they are our most precious resource.  Two, fully fund public education according to the laws that are currently on the books. ALL children deserve equality, opportunities for success, and a better tomorrow. 


Ronald W. Garner, Ed.D.


Spartanburg One  

Mailing Address: PO Box 218 | Campobello, SC 29322
Physical Address: 121 Wheeler Street | Campobello, SC 29322
Phone: 864-472-2846 | Fax: 864-472-4118
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