David Schutten’s comments Thursday on the DeKalb school crisis and the silence of the religious leaders drew this response from one local minister:
My name is Randy Shepley and I have served as the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Tucker for the past five years. I have three children attending DeKalb County Schools. I am also a graduate of DeKalb County schools so the issues surrounding the DeKalb School system are of vital importance to me.
I wanted to share some thoughts with you regarding the final paragraph from David Schutten’s remarks that were a part of your recent posting. The remarks read: “And, finally, as co-chair of the faith based and labor based community organizing group Atlantans Building Leadership for Empowerment, I find the silence of religious leaders disheartening and discouraging.”
I have never met David Schutten, so I do not assume I know his thoughts and motives behind his words. I do however, have two points of rebuttal related to the quote above.
First, if you want to find clergy and churches concerned about education in DeKalb County, find the churches that are serving teachers, students, and administrators. Our church has active partnerships with four community schools. These partnerships take many forms, but in the end, we serve students, faculty and parents in ways that respect religious liberty and diversity.
Furthermore, in the Tucker community, we are not unique. Many churches come together to support and love our schools. Can we do more to speak out against the injustices taking place in our system? Certainly. Are we silent? Not hardly.
Second, there are pastors, ministers, and church members who have worked tirelessly to stand up for our children in DeKalb County since the redistricting plan of 2010. I have been to Tucker Parent Council meetings, written letters, served on a PTA Board, been to BOE candidate meet and greets, been interviewed on TV related to the recent restructuring plan, and encouraged congregation members to be informed.
I am not nearly as involved as many parents and neighbors, but I, along with other ministers, do what our time and responsibilities allow. Perhaps a game plan for connecting DeKalb clergy to discuss these issues would prove fruitful. We may be surprised to find out how involved the clergy are already.
Mr. Schutten and I seem to agree the issues facing DeKalb County Schools are justice issues on behalf of our children, parents and faculty members and that these issues are integrally connected with our faith. My hope is the church can join the other voices of our county calling for the highest commitment to the education of all DeKalb’s children. As has been said before, “they are all our kids.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog