meeting held last Tuesday at Warrington Middle School (the one where only 12 parents bothered to show up-- to a school where we have 650 students)-I’ve given significant thought to some of the things that were stated publicly at that gathering; I’ve come to the conclusion that much of it was absolute fiction. (I really would prefer to use different and much more hard-hitting nouns over the Pollyannaish “fiction” or “Myth”, but I won’t…..this post will be rated "G")
Myth #1-More parents were not present because they were “at work”.
Reality-some parents may well have been at work, some may have been at second jobs. But how many? What percentage? Other inner-city schools with similar demographics routinely draw a significantly larger crowd. Schools where most parents do work have well attended afternoon-evening meetings. I believe the majority of Warrington Middle School parents, at 5:30 in the afternoon, could have been there if they felt it was important. WMS is a school that has 100% universal free breakfast and lunch, so a large majority of the parents are in extreme poverty, and a majority of these parents are on some form (or multiple forms) of Government Assistance (WIC, SSDI, AFDC, TANF, Medicaid, subsidized housing, etc. etc. etc.)—meaning while they may very well be poor monetarily, more than likely many of them have time. Time may
very well be today’s most precious commodity. Today’s “Poor” in many instances are “rich” in time. Time that could be utilized helping kids do school work. Time that could be used modeling good social habits and
behaviors. Time that could have been spent coming to the school town-hall to help us find solutions--- if these same parents thought it was important enough. They didn’t, they blew it off instead.
Myth #2-More parents were not present because they had “no transportation”
Reality-Many parents live within walking distance of the school. The weather was pleasant, no rain, temperatures in the low 60s-many could have walked. Students walk up and down Old-Corry field road daily, back and forth. There is a sidewalk. Where were the parents? Also, bus transportation is/was available via ECAT. Third, many of the parents DO have cars and could have come-if they cared. If they didn’t /don’t own a car, they know someone that does and could have arranged a ride. If it was “free-food night” or if a famous athlete or musician was the featured speaker-they would have found a way there; transportation is not the issue, was not the issue.
Myth #3-The system is broken, “we need more programs and resources!”
Reality-we've dumped more than $8Million Dollars in facilities, extra personnel, behavior coaches, community outreach personnel, computers, software, and other improvements into WMS in the last 5 years----over and above the expenditures a typical middle school of Warrington’s size would get. We've invested so much at Warrington, money that could have been spent elsewhere, at places it would have been appreciated. Read more about the specifics of these investments here and here.
Myth #4-Parents “did not know” there was going to be a meeting
Reality-Fiction, absolute fiction. Mrs. Rush, principal at Warrington, sent home information. The meeting was announced in the PNJ on the Sunday prior, it was discussed on WEAR channel three on numerous occasions before the date, and the meeting was promoted by County Commissioner Gene Valentino. People knew. If these folks cared, they would have come. They didn't, they blew it off.
Myth # 5 –a fiction propagated by the PNJ after the meeting “about 100 community members attended” Fact-That disingenuous quote from the Wednesday PNJ article about the WMS Town-hall meeting did not disclose that of the 100 or so people there, only a handful (12, to be exact because I was there and counted them) were parents. The article intentionally left the actual number of parents in attendance out of the article, to convey via omission the notion that 100 parents were there---which still would have been an anemic turnout considering the magnitude of the problem and the number of students attending WMS.
Myth #6-The school system and the justice system are broken and do not provide opportunities for these youth. And when these youth commit crimes, they are pinned with “Felonies” that limit their life trajectory, and people won’t hire them, and that is the problem!
Reality-And where to start on this one….the system may be dysfunctional, however the system affords youth that make mistakes opportunities for redemption. Look no further than the recent FELONIES committed by youth at Molino Park Elementary School. Nearly $70K in damage, robbery, theft and destruction of property. The system allowed the two “of-age” perpetrators to serve just one year in jail and a number of years’ probation after one year of incarceration. The Felony is erased as long as these individuals do not re-offend. If they re-offend again and the judge throws them in jail for a longer period, will this be called a system failure? The judge in this case could have sent them away and not afforded them grace, but even though the judge in this case will face stiff criticism for what will be considered a lenient sentence by some, he and the system showed these offenders mercy. In the past this same judge has tried to give breaks to youthful offenders that have shown potential to be productive citizens and his name and reputation has been slung through the mud by a media that is destructive, irresponsible and does not bother to look at facts. Was this judge part of a broken system? Or was he trying to help, and did he pay a steep price for trying to help? This happens every day, every day kids get second, third, fourth, fifth and more chances. We are a country with a heart; we are a school system with a heart. We let some kids get 39 referrals before we kick them out. Is that a system that fails the kid with 39 referrals, or did that kid fail himself, his family, and the system? We want to help kids be successful, we want to help kids succeed, but we have to draw the line and yes, we have to kick kids out when they are behavior nightmares. It should never get to 39 referrals….. If people are not challenged when they do not speak about realities, then their myths become realities that are believed to be the truth by many. The truth is the truth and the truth will set you free. The truth of the matter is we have a society that is devolving in many communities, and there are no fathers present in a majority of these homes to hold these families together. There is no emphasis on God and religion, and everyone is out to assign blame rather than help find solutions. People are gaming the system for every entitlement they can get, and work is becoming disincentivized in the process. Meanwhile, news media and other rubes will not tell it like it is, and the by-product of this dysfunction becomes apathetic parents, schools that under-perform, youth that have no moral compass in some cases, high crime, substance abuse, and eventually these youth end up in the criminal justice system, where even still they are afforded opportunities for redemption. All of this becomes meaningless to those who want to speak in riddles and rhymes and deal in matters of fiction and mythology rather than keeping it real and getting to the root of the problem; it’s easier to blame rather than do. It’s simply easier, but it is feeding and enabling the problem. Everyone needs to speak the truth, get in the game with those of us who do, and try to make the system work better for kids. Solutions--- no more mythology and fiction, please.
I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.