By Holden Kirk
Education is a topic of discussion in the political realm that will eternally be debated about. About a month ago I decided to attend a Shelby County School Board meeting to see what the current issues are in the local education system. The meeting was packed full of parents and school faculty with the members of the board facing everyone in the room.
At the beginning of the meeting, a couple of sports teams were recognized for their success and were applauded by the audience. After that concluded, the board allowed for 20 speakers to come forward who had previously arranged to do so, and speak their opinions on anything to do with the education system.
This was my first time at a school board meeting of any kind, so I was curious to see what was going to happen. Some of the speakers expressed thanks and appreciation for the board and the work being done in the community – including one parent who recently moved to Shelby County from out of state and said she was very pleased with the school system. While others expressed concerns about school conditions, funding, maternity leave requirements, and overall quality of education.
One of the first complaints about school conditions came from a teacher at Grizzlies Prep. He claimed that his school was in reasonable condition and there weren’t any problems. But after visiting various other schools in the SCS system, he said that is not the case for some. In his statement he mentioned how it is difficult for some teachers to tell their students they can achieve anything in this world if a ceiling tile falls in right after making that statement.
Another teacher talked about how for a lot of kids, school is a second home. And for some, it is their only place that feels like a true home. He went on to say that it is important that the schools in Shelby County receive adequate funding because children’s education is essential for the betterment of society. A following speaker added to this point by stating how SCS was top 10 in the state for school performance, but near the bottom in funding.
The complaint that really stood out the most came from a local Pastor in Memphis. He said that he asked one of his youth church members to sign their name on a form and the boy said he didn’t know how to sign his name. The Pastor said that after he did some investigating he found out that the teaching of cursive writing was removed from SCS schools 7 years ago. He pleaded to the board that they re-implement cursive writing into the curriculum because of the amount of people graduating that enter the world not knowing how to sign their name.
Other parents voiced their complaints about their kids suffering from bullying and students cutting class to do drugs during school hours. All in all, there were plenty of perspectives of parents, faculty, and community members for the school board members to consider.
The remainder of the meeting featured school board members going over schedules for upcoming events, funds that were being allotted to certain schools, policy revisions, etc.
Before attending this meeting I expected it to be somewhat mundane and slow. But after seeing the format of these meetings it showed to me that there are plenty of parents and faculty in Shelby County that are concerned about the students of Shelby County. It seems to me that the primary concerns are funding, school conditions, and curriculum. I can imagine that is a common theme for most public school systems.
Something that can be taken away from this is that we, as citizens of our city, have the opportunity to voice our concerns and appreciations for our public school system. We have the ability to urge those in charge to make decisions that will benefit everyone. There will always be something that can be improved with any establishment/organization so this type of meeting is essential. Also this meeting exemplifies that the population of Shelby County is passionate about the well being of public school and their children. What we as Americans can be grateful for is that we have a voice that will be heard and that the students of America have people looking out for them.
I think that it is very insightful to air these grievances and very brave to stand up to a school board with comments like these. They are in no way inflammatory and are legitimate concerns that these parents and community members have which is what seals the deal. My question is if these kinds of meetings get televised. Which after asking that question in my head I asked myself, well who the hell would watch a board meeting if they did go there themselves? Not me, I don’t have kids so it doesn’t apply to me per-se. Yet I feel like doing this would open the public up to knowing what their neighbors, friends, and leaders feel and how the board is willing to respond to those grievances. All together this is a very well put together article.