Editorial: Citizen of the Year — Piedmont’s Matt Akin exemplifies the best in small-town public education
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 23, 2014 | 2134 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Piedmont City Schools Superintendent Matt Akin at the Piedmont Middle School library. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star
Piedmont City Schools Superintendent Matt Akin at the Piedmont Middle School library. Photo: Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star
Public schooling is an irresistible topic. From culture warriors spreading hoaxes about textbooks to reformers hopping from one new technique to the next, and from statehouses sticking their often-unwelcome snouts into the trough to economic developers worrying if their local schools are suitably attractive, there are enough words on the state of public schooling to fill a library.

Of course, the topic is worth our attention, more than almost any other in a local context. We firmly support the notion that the only road out of poverty runs by the schoolhouse door. Special support is due those who are leading the way — those who are doing as well as talking.

Matt Akin, superintendent of Piedmont City Schools, is just such a doer. He’s our kind of educator. His efforts have put laptops into the hands of Piedmont students, devices as necessary in today’s high-tech word as pencils and paper.

Akin’s efforts have earned Piedmont schools a national reputation. The rural district with 1,200 students proves that successful schools aren’t only in well-heeled suburbs or near booming centers of technology. With the right leadership and vision they can spring up right here in modest, little towns.

Piedmont schools are celebrated as pioneers in delivering technology into the classroom and, just as important, translating this tech into academic success. Yes, in Alabama and also across the nation.

The results are in the district’s graduation rate (94 percent, fourth highest in Alabama); the percentage of graduates enrolled in state colleges (62 percent, 10 points higher than the state average); and broad recognition from a vast array of education supporters, including Apple and U.S. News and World Report.

More importantly, Akin’s mastery of technology has turned on the light of knowledge in the minds of thousands of children, many of whom came from meager circumstances.

Akin’s work is a difference-maker. It’s also a lesson for other poor districts struggling to break free of the usual excuses.

And so it is an honor for The Anniston Star to recognize Matt Akin as Citizen of the Year.
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