There is already space available to house such operations in the new Anna K. Davie (and Southeast) Elementary School for which SPLOST funding exists. That facility has yet to raise out of the ground and is some 18 months away from opening, so the big push to accomplish this must begin immediately.
The South Rome Redeve-lopment Corp. (SRRC) has decided to strongly participate in this which, as few fully grasp, involves a fund-raising effort of considerable size and perhaps never-ending duration. As Dr. J. Paul Ferguson, who chairs the education panel of the group that has spearheaded much of that region’s revival/improvement to this point, explained there will be startup capital expenses of about $180,000 and an annual operating budget of roughly $500,000. He means each and every year for the operating expenses.
That’s a high step when considering the local United Way has had an annual goal of only about twice that in recent years. Nor should it be overlooked that the Greater Rome community already supports, through various caring folks and fund raisers, a rather amazing amount of helping-hand organizations with a permanent presence, permanent facilities ... and annual operating budgets that must be found.
THERE ARE already some major supporting partners in this venture besides SRRC, primarily the Rome City Schools, Berry College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College and Darlington School. Notable by their absence to this point are some other local entities with an educational emphasis so clearly the base of enthusiastic support needs to be widened.
On the dollar end, Georgia Power Foundation has already committed $35,000 and no doubt other such benefactors will be informed about this effort, not only across the state but also nation.
However, this will indeed be a high step primarily because of the constant, sustaining need for funding that will be involved. Remember, there will be no big flow of tuition revenues available to help cover the bills. While the South Rome/Southeast service area amounts in population to that of many small towns in this state, the lack of strong incomes (and business presence) in that region means that until a true, full “comeback” is achieved any funding appeal for this must be community-wide in nature. Most existing similar efforts are indeed also community-wide but involve services/agencies whose clients are drawn from anywhere, not a specific geographic area.
Not only that but there is general supposition on the part of the public that fundamental educational efforts are supposed to be handled out of the governmental treasury drawn from taxation. As most know, that entire vital sector is more in a current condition of shrinkage than expansion. Local funds, in particular, are very strapped. This is not so much the result in Greater Romans not continuing to attach high priority to education but rather to the state withdrawing previous levels of support and assistance.
WHEREAS IT once was commonly understood what a “public purpose” supported through a shared tax burden involved it has become increasingly difficult to understand what the basics currently entail. Increasingly the worth and benefit of taxes are clouded by a prominent rhetoric that argues such levies are always supposed to become less and never more. They now often appear defined by how much returns through the individual front door. Sort of “So, what has government done for me lately?” The basic fact that it educates you, protects you, tries to save your property or life in any emergency, provides roads/streets for your car that otherwise would be useless ... and so forth. It also has an interest — or should — in making all able to contribute to and support all “public purposes.”
Most people know this and, in Greater Rome, have long shown an active interest in making such mutually beneficial elements stronger.
Because of this there should be much reason for optimism even though, as SRRC board member Tom Whitworth, who is the headmaster at Darlington School, put it: “It’s unprecedented in this market. We’ve got to have some really good friends.”
Actually, while a leap appearing to require a Superman-type bound it is not unprecedented and education has long had really, really good friends in Greater Rome.
Pretty much everything of both a public and private educational nature that has endured and succeeded in this community was started by local folks who, just as with the South Rome venture, expressed an interest and then proceeded to back it up.
EVEN the Rome and Floyd School systems fall into this category and not just because of the consistent taxation support local voters have offered them. Even earlier, in the days of one-room schools, those were created by neighbors in the old militia districts banding together to form and support them. However, that is a common evolution in both state and nation.
More specifically, with “novel” ideas designed to serve specific portions of the population and not necessarily everybody, pretty much everything in these parts began through individual/group action without government involvement. That may well be rather unique in its extent; it is remarkable how few of today’s residents are fully aware of this.
Just from what ought to be common knowledge but actually is not, large successful local educational ventures that began as community efforts — and there are a passel of smaller ones as well — would include: Shorter College (now a university), Berry College, Darlington School, St. Mary’s, Unity Christian, Georgia Highlands and Georgia Northwestern. It has made schooling this region’s second largest service industry and economic engine.
The latter two are now generally believed to be state-level ventures but the reality is that, at the outset, both were started by purely local interest and local citizen action with hometown funding when government expressed little interest. The state, late to filling obvious needs then as now, later absorbed them after they proved successful.
AGAINST THIS back-ground there should be strong optimism for South Rome pulling this off. This community has done it before ... and often. When it comes to all things educational, Greater Rome has always shown that it is a class act.