Why do I keep doing this?

Why do I keep doing this?  Covering schools, I mean.  I’ve lost track of the years.  Somewhere around 1994, I think, my employer told me I needed to have a specialty, a “beat,” so to speak.

I sort of joke about this, but there’s some truth in it. In my version of the story, I told my boss, “Okay, but I’m not a confrontational, in-your-face kind of guy. I’d like something with no conflict, controversy or politics.”  So he gave me the schools.  Be careful what you wish for.

It’s been a challenge.  There are a couple hundred schools in our viewing area, and in a good year, I might get into about half of them.  Most of the time, I’m doing a positive story, but you would never know it from the feedback I hear.  Just this week, a Hamilton County school board member, for whom I have great respect, said in a public meeting, “The media only reports the bad stuff.”  My immediate reaction was anger, but after a few minutes I shrugged my shoulders and said, “He knows better.  I think it just makes some people feel better if they can blame someone else.”

Yes, the schools have problems.  In one of those school board meetings this week, the hot topic was what to do about five “under performing” schools that are being considered for a state takeover.  I’ve been in each of those schools.  Compared to ten years ago, they’re in better shape than they used to be.  Brainerd High has had the same principal for several years in a row, and he’s trying hard.  Dalewood had a great one (who is now at Howard) and his successor is a dynamo.  Woodmore had a sad, difficult year, losing six children in a bus crash, but that school’s principal is also a star.  They’ll come back strong.  Orchard Knob Middle’s principal attended school there, and cares deeply.  Orchard Knob Elementary’s principal is world-class, and he has been there for seven years.  If the state will let him do his thing, he will succeed.

If the state has a magic bullet that can cure Hamilton County’s ills, why haven’t they shared it before now?  Will the state go into every home, ensuring that each child has a supportive family?  Will the state protect each child from the dangers they face in their neighborhoods? Does the state know how to get in touch with absentee parents who have no contact information?  Can the state provide supervision at home to ensure these children go to bed on time, and get the nourishment (emotional and physical) they need?  Does the state believe the caring educators at these schools haven’t been trying to address these social issues for decades?  Bring it on, state.  If you have the solutions to all these problems, stop holding back. Share your secrets with us.

So I ask myself sometime: why do I keep doing this?  The same problems that were in the headlines forty years ago are still there.  Only the names have changed.  Test scores are low. The school district says it can’t do its job without a tax hike.  The politicians say, forget about a tax hike.  Crumbling buildings.  Suicides.  Bullying.  Bus problems.  Frustration about state testing demands.  Superintendent searches.  The best families fleeing public schools for private schools, charter schools, or home schooling.  Yes, it seems like I’ve done these stories before: many, many times.

Why do I keep doing this?  This week, I figured it out.  It’s because of this.

Clifton Hills Elementary 2nd graders see their artwork on display

And this.

Pleasant Grove Elementary students cheer for principal Laurie Grant

Students at Pleasant Grove Elementary cheer for their “Ironman” principal

And this.

Lakeview Middle 7th graders in the school’s outdoor classroom

No one is posing in any of these pictures.  You’re looking at sheer wonderment, true joy, unabashed happiness.  The top picture shows 2nd graders at Clifton Hills Elementary, never before exposed to art class, admiring their work in a public showcase.  The middle pictures show the entire student body at Pleasant Grove Elementary, supporting their principal as she gears up for the Ironman competition.  The bottom picture shows 7th graders at Lakeview Middle School in their outdoor classroom, getting their hands dirty in the garden before they clean out the chicken coop.

Every one of these stories was on the news during the past few days, on-air and online. The other media outlets in town did some positive stories too.

When I report these stories, and take these pictures, I try to be a fly on the wall.  If, as the school board member said, the media only reports the bad, you would have no way of knowing  how hard teachers are working to be creative, to think outside the box, and to come up with new ways of engaging children in our video game-obsessed world.  Hopefully someone saw these stories.

As these pictures are transferred from my camera to the computer screen, I sit and stare at them.  I see the bright eyes and the big smiles.  Some of these children have great home lives. Many of them don’t.  What they have at school is a shared experience that is forming who they will be as adults.  I’m seeing hope in those pictures.  I’m seeing discovery.  I’m seeing joy.

That’s why I do this.

About David Carroll

David Carroll is a longtime Chattanooga radio and TV broadcaster, and has anchored the evening news on WRCB-TV since 1987. He is the author of "Chattanooga Radio & Television" published by Arcadia.

14 thoughts on “Why do I keep doing this?

    1. Marilyn Miller

      I loved LOVED your article. We need to see what positive things our school teachers are doing for our children, with our children that most people do not know about but that these kids LIVE for and learn from!! Thank you so much!

  1. Flora

    David your one of the good guys. When I read your story’s they are interesting and informative. You don’t just dwell on the negative. Thanks for doing your job the way it should be done.

    1. Janice Rivera

      Holman Christian Standard Bible
      A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Luke 6:45

      It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Matthew 15:11

      **From your words to our ears and our hearts then to our mouths spreading the good in our community, so that others may have hope in hearing.

  2. Keith freeman

    As an educator it is important to have someone like you in the media who will tell the good, the bad, and the ugly! We need Someone who will cover and celebrate our victories, inform others of our needs, and hold us accountable when we need to be!

  3. Gail Chuy

    David, thank you for reminding us why we all continue to do this. Hope you continue to “do this” for a long time.

  4. David Smith

    As the Principal of an area school, I can say that you have always been available and accommodating to do stories about good things happening in our schools. No matter the story, you have always been fair and truthful. There is a news source in Chattanooga that seeks bad news stories and likes to sensationalize stories to obtain viewers, but it is not WRCB or David Carroll. All teachers and schools in Marion County consider David Carroll a friend of education and source for truthful reporting.

  5. Jennifer

    As a teacher at one of the bottom
    5, I appreciate this! We work hard, we care about our students. We push them to succeed, but we can’t fix it all. What we can do is keep showing up, keep loving our students, and keep doing the best we can to provide a quality education! The kids are why we keep doing this too!

  6. Brenda Brown

    One reason I think you continue doing this is because you come from a family of educators who strive daily to make the world a better place! You know the hard work and problems schools, teachers, students and families endure, often with little recognition. Recognition is not what they want! They have that desire to advance society as far forward as possible to create a more positive world. Great article and , believe me, there is far more good than bad! Keep sharing that good!

  7. Angela Hayes

    I am an assistant principal at a school you recently did a story on and can say that you helped capture the joy of a school as we cheered on our principal as she participated in the Ironman! Our story has had unintended positive ripple effects because of you, David Carroll! We can’t thank you enough for taking the time to travel to our school. Our students believed they were famous! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! Please keep doing what you’re doing!

  8. bev thompson

    Great article. David, you always report accurately and fairly. You celebrate the great things in our schools and report the areas on which we need to improve. Those of us who know you and have shared with you through the years know how dedicated and devoted you are to the schools in this area.

  9. Becky

    What a heart warming blog post. No need to sensationalize when you just share the truth. Sometimes it’s pretty, sometimes it’s not. At the end of the day you still have a good story with your integrity intact, and your viewers trust that. Thank you for all that you do in sharing hope in our future. Thank you for highlighting the hard work and dedication of our educators. Thank you for you positivity!

  10. Jerry Lingerfelt

    If only the law makers could visit the schools as you do and have a real picture of what is being done and what the limitations are it would be a whole different story. I am married to a former Hamilton County School teacher of some 35 years and I know that most of the teachers spend their own money and many more hours trying to do the job they are paid (minimally) to do.

    Thom Tolar and your news director made the right decision when they assigned you to this task. I remember when you started and know that you have dedicated yourself to reporting fairly and passionately. Well done!


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