TCPS President Dr. Bill Balzano presented the school’s highest annual award to Robert and Barbara Wright on Thursday evening for their commitment to the lordship of Jesus Christ and service to the community through participation on various boards, committees and community service projects.
Sarah Caines was awarded the Fourth Person Award, established March 8, 2012, in honor of Melanie Hope Stout, whose dedicated support as a volunteer has inspired, blessed and unleashed the administration to fulfill the vision and mission of TCPS.
The purpose of the award is to annually honor a volunteer who serves the school family and excels in providing support, encouragement and accomplishment.
Spirit Award winner Robert Wright graduated from a small country high school in Middle Tennessee, married his high school sweetheart, Barbara and joined the Merchant Marines. After two years of service in an engineering battalion of the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne Division, he began a highway construction career on Interstate 40 west of Nashville, working as an oiler on a cable shovel in 1959.
In 1961, he and his brother, James, formed Wright Brothers Construction Co. with a bulldozer borrowed from their father’s farm. The company has grown from three employees and about $5,000 in revenue in 1961 to 325 employees and an estimated $115 million in revenue in 2011. In 1998, Wright received the Distinguished Service award from the Tennessee Road Builders Association for 40 years of excellence in leadership and devoted service.
“Robert Wright is dedicated to God and country,” Balzano said. “Barbara could have written the book on being the quintessential wife and mother. Her husband and her children are the center of her life, with her church and her gardening following closely behind.
“When I think of Barbara, I think of Proverbs 31 that describes a wife of noble character as worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.”
The Wrights recently celebrated 58 years of marriage. They have four children: Cindy, Audrey, Penny and Stephen, and eight grandchildren.
“I want those in the audience to know that tonight’s celebration would most likely not have occurring had it not been for Mr. and Mrs. Wright. That is because during one of the darkest times in the life of our school, God sent to us a champion, who came alongside the school and patiently and with long suffering worked with us to allow our school to develop a strong foundation. Thousands of children and their families will gain eternity because of your gifts of love,” Balzano said.
“Barbara tells me to keep it short. She’s usually right,” Mr. Wright said.
During his state of the school address, Balzano said a number of rigorous studies define the characteristics of high-performing schools: a clear and shared focus, mission and vision, high standards and expectations for all students, effective school leadership and high levels of collaboration and communication.
Also, curriculum, instruction and assessments aligned with national standards: frequent monitoring of learning and teaching, focused professional development, supportive learning environment and high levels of family and community involvement.
“I am delighted to report to you that at TCPS those nine characteristics are not [the] only descriptive of our program,” he said.
Balzano spoke of a world of education where there is constant turmoil, change, and upheaval academically, socially, financially and politically.
“Education seems to be the battleground for the very soul of our nation and in many ways the battle is being lost because of vested interests, attempts at the social reprogramming of our country, political correctness and a disregard for the foundational principals of our nation,” he said.
“In fact, many experts have pronounced the whole American education system, not just high schools, to be broken.”
For example, he said the Strong American Schools campaign, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, has compiled a list of disturbing figures:
- 1.2 million students drop out of high school every year. A student drops out of high school every 26 seconds. That’s 1.2 million per year — or 6,000 a day.
- One-fourth of high school students don’t graduate on time; more than a quarter of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time.
- Three in 10 college freshmen repeat high school classes. Although 80 percent of 10th- graders plan to earn a college degree, three in 10 college freshmen have to repeat high school courses, and nearly half fail to graduate.
- 70 percent of eighth-graders can’t read at grade level, and most will never catch up.
- Math teachers lack math-related degrees. More than a third of middle and high school math classes are taught by someone who lacks even a college minor in a math-related field.
- States set low standards. 25 million students attend school in states that have set proficiency standards for fourth-grade reading below even the most basic level.
- The U.S. ranks 19th in graduation rate. America’s high school graduation rate ranks 19th in the world. Forty years ago, we were first (Strong American Schools, 2008, p. 1).
“It is within this context that TCPS exists,” Balzano said. “I can assure you that our existence and operation demonstrates the antithesis of those findings.”