By Mike RuffinI recently had the privilege of serving as an adjudicator for the Extemporaneous Speaking competition in the Region 5-AA Literary Meet. The event took place at Lamar County High School.The class of 1976, of which I am a member, was the first one to graduate from that campus. I still call it ‘the new high school.’ They are about to build a newer one, which is good.As I walked the hallowed halls of my alma mater, I reflected on the fact that I’d never before done so. I probably need to explain.From 1970-74, boys went to school on the Forsyth Road (formerly Booker T. Washington School) campus and girls on the Birch Street (formerly Milner) campus. We all – boys and girls – spent the 1974-75 school year, which was my class’s junior year, at Forsyth Road. As that year wound down, we looked forward to spending our senior year at the brand new Lamar County Comprehensive High School. But late in my junior year, I decided to forego my senior year to enter Mercer University. So I spent my high school senior year as a college freshman. I did come back to graduate with my class.So I couldn’t wax nostalgic as I wandered the halls of Lamar County High School on the day of the Literary Competition. But I did find myself being grateful for the teachers who taught me and helped shape my life at both Gordon Grammar School and Forsyth Road School (aka Lamar County High School). I’m the only member of my immediate family that attended Lamar County schools, but my wife and both of our children are products of public schools. I support public education. I don’t mind paying property taxes because I know the money helps fund public schools.I appreciate public education because it presents opportunities. It makes progress possible. It enables informed and productive citizenship. It does all of that without charging tuition. It is available to any student regardless of race, gender, or socio-economic status. If you are a child living in the United States, you can go to school. Public education gives us all a chance to become who we should be.We need to support our public schools in every way we can. We should insist on having the very best leaders possible, from our local schools to the United States Department of Education. We should encourage our teachers to constantly strive for excellence, both in their teaching and in their students’ learning, and we should pay them in line with the tremendous value they have.The hallowed halls of Gordon Grammar School are gone. Those of Forsyth Road School are abandoned and deteriorated. New ones will soon replace those of Lamar County High School. I am grateful for the public schools of Lamar County that helped me become who I am. For the sake of our children, our communities, our nation and our world, I hope that we will do all we can to help public education thrive.Mike Ruffin is a writer, editor, preacher, and teacher who grew up in Barnesville and lives in Yatesville.