News Editor

Stephen Milligan is the news editor of The Walton Tribune. He lives in Monroe and is a graduate of the University of Georgia.

Graduation is just around the corner for the Class of 2022.

I should know. I’ve been running around the county all week delivering proof sheets from our upcoming graduation magazine to the high schools to double check accuracy of spelling, pictures and to make sure the kids in those pics actually are set to graduate.

I’ve also been running around interviewing the valedictorians and salutatorians from our high schools as I prepare for their profiles in our last Education section of the school year at months’ end.

The school year is winding down for everyone, of course, not just the seniors. This past week’s meetings of the Walton County and Social Circle boards of education were both twice as long as usual as they spent a great deal of the meetings honoring students for their achievements in the past few weeks.

Sports teams, performing arts ensembles, top academic performers, club champions of every kind, all of them got their moment in the spotlight, a piece of paper declaring their achievement and a quick snap of the camera to put them on the school district website as more proof of the success of the local education system.

It’s made my evenings longer, but I can’t really begrudge them the time.

I’ve been the education reporter at the Tribune since I first started here nearly 16 years ago now. That didn’t mean much at first; I started in July, for one thing, so the school board meetings weren’t terribly eventful, even as budget talks came up.

But I soon fell in love with the beat. I like kids, for one thing (perhaps because I still haven’t entirely grown up yet), and enjoy talking with them.

But on the greater scale, I’ve enjoyed seeing our schools grow and thrive. When I started, the Walton County School District was on academic probation for a litany of board policy violations. They shook that off and have grown significantly since then, recognized as an exemplary board by the state in recent years. Social Circle City Schools has seen similar success.

And our kids are reaping the benefits. Our schools navigated COVID-19 with a deceptive ease that made surrounding counties look foolish by comparison. Our children are learning more than ever, without the distractions that plague other districts or other states.

I look forward to more success from our schools, and our students. I look forward to seeing this year’s graduates thrive, and the ones after that, and the ones after that.

After all, my oldest niece will be graduating in 2032 from the WCSD, with two more to follow. I’m keeping an eye on things for them, if nothing else.

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