Failing schools, problem runs deeper

Published 8:50pm Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mark Story

Dallas County Board of Education member

I appreciate the fact The Selma Times-Journal has recently seen fit to send reporters to the Dallas County School Board of Education meetings. However, I have an issue with what was relayed to the public about one of our recent meetings.

In this meeting, Dr. McKenzie was asked by Board Chairman William Minor about the status of our “failing schools.” This is something that we’ve all discussed with her on previous occasions. We all realize there’s always room for improvement. The reaction that was displayed by Dr. McKenzie was one of sincere heartfelt dismay and that she rejects the label of “failing school.”

Her point, and mine, is that this label only points a finger at the schools and fails to identify al the issues. She and her staff are always diligent in making every effort to analyze and improve our educational process. What she explained was apparently missed by the editorial writer.

We — the school system — have to be everything to everybody. We take all comers to our schools. We do not discriminate on ability to pay, aptitude, physical ability or social status. We take the elite academics as well as the chronic absentee student and the mentally challenged. All of these numbers play in some degree to the cumulative score that comprises our “failing school.”

As she stated, and I whole-heartedly agree, many of our students come from situations that do not lend themselves to an environment that encourages learning nor places any value on education. We have students who do not live with either of their parents. In many cases, the students do not have anyone to follow up on their progress or even care if they make progress. It is not enough to say many of these children come from dysfunctional families; some do not even have a family.

No, I am not saying every child that does not live with his birth mother is disadvantaged, but we have some students that are considered homeless.

Many of them come from an environment that gives them no incentive to receive education. School to these children is something that is to be endured or tolerated, not embraced. Career is a concept foreign to many of these families.

We were not complaining, but only stating a fact that the school is not the only issue. We are not asking for special testing for different groups as implied in your editorial. The label of “failing school” changed everyone’s mindset and stigmatizes the school. It can actually drive away new teachers and discourage the new teacher from coming to our system.

Your editorial makes my point for me. You say we should figure out how to get the best and brightest to come here. You are assuming we don’t. You are dismissive to a very capable group of teachers and staff. You made many assumptions by the label that has been put on those schools. You are saying the system and the teachers are the problem and maybe a better PTO will fix everything. I say it is much bigger than all of that.

We, as a nation and a community, have lost our moral foundation, which rewards those who work hard, are responsible for their own actions and live with the consequences of their actions. We have a generation that fails to recognize and respect authority. We have a generation that expects a lot for very little or no investment. The government has taken moral, ethical and religious training out of school. Society has allowed it, and said that it is good. Schools have been forced to reach into many areas that should be the job of parents, church and others in the community. Evidence of this is we have to deal with disrespect, drugs, unwed mothers, violence and occasional weapons at school. Is this the fault of the school? If you say it is, you are part of the problem and are being misled into this void, which says government is the answer to all your problems.

We have programs that cover everything. We spend the taxpayer’s money as a good steward as frugally as we can and still get the job done. We are financially stretched to the limit. We have a program for everything. We have many program which are mandated by the government which provide no recognizable quantifiable returns. There is always another program. The government thinks they can throw taxpayer dollars at the problem and this time it will fix everything. I am bring very charitable with this statement, “This is partly a society issue, not a school issue.”

You speak of us wasting valuable school time discussing this issue. This is the issue. We have many great teachers, both young and old, who are forward thinking and use innovative ways of teaching and find ways to connect with the student’s home. The part we cannot do is be the parent who encouraged the child at home and be the example for which so many of them long.

When you say “failing school,” who really is it that is failing?

This is such a hot button issue with so many for so many reasons. It makes it hard to get straight answers from the ones in the trenches such as teachers and principals as they don’t want to publically condemn the very community in which they live. But many will tell you privately they never see some parents or never get a call from some parents. I have had some tell me they went an entire year without any parent visiting or even calling.

It wasn’t from a lack of trying. One school offered door prizes to get parents to come to PTO meetings. When the prizes were given out, most everyone left without speaking with their child’s teacher. But in those very same schools, we have students achieving academic excellence. We have students who eventually enroll and graduate major colleges and universities all over the country. We have graduates in almost every occupational field who are very successful. It wasn’t given to them, but earned by them.

To say the very least, this mindset of your infuriates me. It exemplifies your high-handed thoughtless condemnation of something you know very little about. If you read this and you are the ones stepping up and taking care of your own and being responsible for your actions, keep it up.

This community will never get anywhere unless everyone steps up and starts being responsible for their own lives and not look to the government to save them.

“It never feels good to be harshly criticized. It takes a special characteristic to be told you are failing at something, being told you are wrong, and turn that into fuel to improve.”

I appreciate the opportunity to enter in this dialogue and I expect to be condemned by many of the same ones in this community who demand more programs and expect more from the government,

We at the Dallas County School Board of Education will continue to strive to provide an excellent educational opportunity to the students of our community.


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