We must face the facts regarding our schools
Much of the blame for the failure of our city’s public schools has been placed on irresponsible parents.
That’s certainly a major factor in the sad state of affairs that currently exists, but last week’s report from the State Commission on School Accreditation suggests that there are numerous problems with the local educational structure as well.
The district’s accreditation status will be placed on probation following numerous problems discovered by state education officials during an unannounced visit, something students might recognize as a “pop quiz.”
Like a student who had been snoozing through class, our district didn’t fare so well on this surprise examination. That didn’t come as any surprise to observers who have seen the district hire a superintendent and then release him before his contract expired, witnessed violence in our schools or seen the recent reports that as many as 80 seniors were in danger of not graduating after failing required tests.
A common response to our reporting on this subject is to shoot the messenger. This newspaper is frequently accused of dwelling on negative subjects while ignoring positive news when it comes to Yazoo City Public Schools. I strongly disagree with that statement. There is
some good news, and we enthusiastically report it. Our Profile edition comes out Saturday, and Yazoo City High senior Stephen Diew may be the most successful student we interviewed.
We’d prefer to tell good news all the time, but this is probably the most significant issue facing our community. We wouldn’t be much of a newspaper if we avoided the issue just because it might upset some of our friends and neighbors.
We’ve never suggested that there aren’t good people working in the district, but the indisputable fact is that the system is broken. We’re constantly assured that progress is being made. There have been some notable successes, but the district as a whole is sinking.
The problems are complex, and that means the solution won’t be simple. There are some simple steps to take in the right direction, however:
1. Enforce the rules consistently. One of the report’s most troubling items is the district’s failure to follow its expulsion policy for a student bringing a weapon on campus. We’ve been given countless other examples from frustrated teachers.
One example is a student being sent to the office for talking on a cell phone during class and returning to class with the cell phone and continuing the conversation with no consequences. Another teacher reported that he was asked to refer to a group of students causing
fights as a “club” rather than a gang so that the trouble makers wouldn’t have to be expelled.
2. Don’t let disruptive students ruin things for those trying to learn.
The district has an alternative school for a reason. It’s understandable that school officials aren’t eager to remove problem students from the traditional learning environment, but they shouldn’t be allowed to hinder the efforts of those who are actually trying to take advantage of the opportunities being provided.
Our actions have consequences. That’s a lesson some of our youth need to learn.
3. Hire the most qualified
Former Superintendent Shannon Sudbury once told us that he was sometimes unable to replace an ineffective employee because they were connected to a school board official or other local politician. That’s not hard to believe. I’ve seen it at all levels of our city government.
Our aldermen will create a job for a political supporter in a heartbeat.
One of the most telling quotes from the report is “...it is the perception that appointments are not made on the basis of individual qualifications, but rather appointments are made based on an individual’s long-term involvement in and connections with local politics.”
This issue has been raised many times by frustrated educators. The response is often, “That’s just politics.” A more accurate description would be, “That’s just stupid.”