Reflecting On the Schools

From the lodge at Oxmoor…

Just this past week there was a lengthy article in our local paper about our Jefferson Country Public School System. Since I was a volunteer for some 20 years in our schools and an employee for 26 years, I am very interested in any and all news about our schools. The article was about the continued growth in our student enrollment. It seems enrollment has passed the 100,000 mark and is still growing. Various educators were voicing opinions about why this is happening when many urban school systems across the country are losing students.

Some local educators surmised it was because of the economy – that private school tuition has increased and parents have turned to the public schools for their children’s schooling. I don’t think it is quite that simple. I agree with their reasoning somewhat, but parents could also be enrolling in the public schools because of new, meaningful programs being offered and the overall positive atmosphere in our schools.

There are some parents who want their children to stay near home for school, while sending them far afield for soccer practice, dancing lessons, overnight slumber parties and other activities. Within that small group there are those who want to force the Board of Education to dismantle our desegregation plan that is in its 36th year.

In a perfect world, schools centered within neighborhoods would be preferred for all children. However, in the world that is, for children to experience living in the diversity they will encounter as they prepare to work, live, and have their own children in today’s world, the desegregation of schools was necessary. Neighborhoods were not going to be racially mixed in the proportion needed to accomplish that diversity. At best over some 30 years only some neighborhoods have made small changes in their makeup and not enough to effect large changes.

The other issue about the necessity of busing is this: each child is supposed to receive an equal education in our country. When schools began to receive court orders to desegregate this was not happening. It was a proven fact that school buildings were not equal, staffing was not equal, equipment including books, science gear and other hands-on equipment was not the same in quality or quantity in each school. This was totally unacceptable and so changes had to be made. Now, as a number of school systems are attempting to go back to the neighborhood school concept, if that is the result I would only hope all parents will be vigilant and never let that injustice happen again.

Most parents are very proud of our public schools here. Are they perfect? Of course not, however, they are and have always tried to be a good school system. There are many different entities that make up a good school system.

A good school system is made up of good schools. Each school is like a family. The family is the Principal, the staff of teachers, the support groups, the office staff, the lunch room staff, the custodial staff, bus drivers, and last, but certainly not the least important, the parents who volunteer on a regular basis in so many ways. In our JCPS here in Louisville, we have been blessed with a wonderful, dedicated Fifteenth District PTA that has PTA representation in almost every school.

Each of the groups that make up a school family are important – one to the other and all to the benefit of the student body. As the captain of the ship, the principal sets a tone of respect and provides guidance for the school family. A happy staff that feels appreciated will, in return, go beyond the call of duty, and the children will be the benefactors.

Just as important, a principal who welcomes parents and promotes the inclusion of a strong PTA in the school will reap untold benefits. Those parents will become the best public relations program you and your school could ever have.

During my many years of volunteering I had the privilege of working with principals who knew the value of parent participation in their school and welcomed the help. I also was involved with principals who tolerated parents but with much less enthusiasm. I tried to not to let acceptance (or the lack thereof) of the PTA’s presence in that school influence my decision to be involved in my child’s school: I accepted it as a privilege but also my RIGHT to be involved.

So , if you visit one of our schools, take time to say “Thank You” to a member of the school family and if you have a child in the school and have some extra time, there is no greater gift than to volunteer and help a child.

And by all means, join a PTA.

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