Ever hear of a little ol' town called Portal? It's a unique little place. Not a very rich or fancy community, nothing remarkable to look at unless you take into consideration the Carter Turpentine Still or the mural painted on the side of a building commemorating the town's turpentine history.
The buildings are old, the pace is slow, and on Friday nights the parking lots of two convenience stores are filled with loud trucks, loud people and local teens. The one grocery store does a bustling business because the owners are local and consider customer's needs. There is only one restaurant.
Portal isn't a bedroom community like Brooklet, where many citizens live who commute to Savannah and Richmond Hill to work. And certainly Portal is not the City of Statesboro, the hub of area commerce.
But tell that to a child.
Explain to a student at Portal Middle/High School why his JROTC program is being cut, and he is shipped to Southeast Bulloch High School to continue that program, and he sees how much more ritzy, for lack of a better word, that school is compared to his own.
Explain to a young PMHS student who attends a function in the Statesboro High School auditorium - a facility that shames anything Georgia Southern University claims - why the quality of their school isn't as - shall we say, "impressive" - as the larger school?
My point is, no matter where a student attends school, the students should be given equal opportunities, equal programs, equal "ritz" if you will, regardless of their school size.
I can't judge the new Portal Middle High School yet because it has not been completed. But I guarantee it will not have the regal columns, the air-conditioned and fancy auditorium, the landscaped courtyard and other extras the Statesboro High School students enjoy.
And that's just not right.
We've recently been given figures that show spending per student at each school are "comparable." Even if that is true, it is still unfair for students of one school to see how much more fancy, elaborate and pretentious another school is compared to their own.
Let me tell you something about the people in Portal. They love their kids. They love their schools. They have community pride. And they feel they are being treated unfairly by the Bulloch County Board of Education.
Why? Because during one recent BOE meeting, a board member referred to them as "those people up there." Because community output never seems to be considered - not even when there is a "standing room only" crowd at the meetings. Because while SHS is being referred to as the Taj Mahal, Portal kids don't have art classes and JROTC.
For years there has been an undercurrent of wanting to do away with Portal schools. It would be easier and more cost-effective, it seems in some opinions, to bus students to a more central school. But a few years back that controversy ran its course. No one wanted a mega school, and Portal families wanted to preserve their small-town, close-knit school atmosphere right there at home.
Who can blame them? Smaller class sizes, kids know everyone, and the faculty and staff are more like family than anything. There is a special atmosphere at Portal schools, and the parents, for the most part, are involved.
I don't feel Portal has been given a fair shake. I have witnessed attitudes by some BOE members that "those people up there" don't matter. Whether the BOE members intended for that attitude to be conveyed is one thing, but regardless of intent, it's how the Portal community as a whole feels- that they don't matter to the BOE.
I understand the financial aspects of tearing down the Portal gym. But what I do not understand are reasons why one city has a high school that surpasses the local university in its finer points (auditorium, courtyard, etc.) while a smaller town loses important educational opportunities; why BOE members will not take the time to work with Portal citizens to make the best situations available for students, and why the simple art of respect isn't always observed.