The past week has been very rewarding.
Tony Welch of Appling was named Columbia County's Father of the Year. The News-Times, on Friday night in Savannah, was for the third year in a row named Georgia's best community newspaper. My friends over at WGAC were named for the fifth year in a row as Georgia's top radio news station.
And my wife was named one of Georgia's best school principals.
Great choice! Hey, if I can't brag about my wife, who can?
People ask us all the time about whether it's awkward for the community newspaper's publisher to be married to the principal of the county's largest elementary school.
Well, yeah, being married to Michelle Paschal IS awkward. She snores, she leaves her closet doors standing open, and she takes off her shoes at the end of the day and leaves them all over the place. (I probably have some annoying faults that make our relationship awkward, too; I'm sure she'll let me know if she finds any.)
Work-wise, though, our relationship is less awkward than would probably be expected. She does her job, I pretend to do mine, and we keep things pretty much separate otherwise.
For example, she learns lots of nifty stuff about the inner workings of the school system - but won't tell me about it, because that's someone else's responsibility. And when someone from her school or the school system wants something in the paper, they have to call me, not her; she's not a conduit for PR.
Probably more awkward for both of us is cocktail-party syndrome: Just as doctors or attorneys will get cornered in social situations for free medical or legal advice, so do the two of us get quizzed about educational or political issues.
Or, conversely, everyone - even family members - makes a big show of clamming up because they're afraid their comments will be "put in the paper." (I don't have the heart to tell them: They're usually too boring to "put in the paper.")
Any potential career-clashes aside, it was pretty cool this past week when Gov. Sonny Perdue and State School Superintendent Kathy Cox sent out a news release naming more than 100 "High Performance Principals" in Georgia, and my wife's name was among them.
Characteristically modest, Michelle thought the whole thing was pretty silly. Because the honor is based on a school's status on a range of data, much of it based on test scores, her first comment was that the students earned the honor - not her.
That sentiment was echoed by Columbia County's other honoree, Lakeside High School Principal Jeff Carney. Because most of the award criteria is academically based, the students are the ones who make it possible.
Fair enough. But you know what? I've gotten a little aggravated on behalf of the public schools over the past couple of years because of the increased, almost robotic emphasis on standardized tests.
A principal can lose his or her job because of these tests. He or she is held accountable for the progress of students - even when those students have such a rotten home life or low intelligence level that they almost certainly will not show substantial academic improvement.
Unfair? Absolutely. But all of them know that's the way the game is played. So if the principals have to take the lumps when the students in their schools struggle, then by gosh they ought to be able to accept praise when the students in their schools do well.
So, congratulations, Mrs. Paschal and Mr. Carney. The governor and the state school superintendent say the two of you are among the best principals in Georgia. And I agree.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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