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PTA Council: Working to build credibility

By Staff
EDITORIAL BOARD Crystal Wade, president of the Meridian PTA Council, told The Meridian Star's editorial board the fate of the area's economy is directly linked with the quality of its public schools.
By Stacey Hancock/The Meridian Star
Dec. 4, 2000
Major issues in education can best be resolved through direct involvement by parents in public schools, according to the president of the Meridian PTA Council.
Wade told The Meridian Star's editorial board the fate of the area's economy is directly linked with the quality of its public schools. She said stronger communication would help students, parents, teachers and the schools better address issues involving accreditation, discipline, curriculum, teacher pay and availability, safety and overall academic achievement.
Changes in the basic structure of American education, for example, have not kept pace with cultural changes. In other countries, students attend school year round, but here in the U.S. the 180-day school year remains the norm.
The PTA Council is organized under the authority of the Mississippi Congress of Parents and Teachers. It helps encourage parental involvement PTAs and in schools.
Wade conceded she is "a bit puzzled" by the lack of heavy parental involvement in Meridian's public schools, even the fact that not all schools send representatives to the PTA Council meetings.
After two failed bond issues and a general feeling that the school board had lost touch with Meridian citizens, Wade said it was time to make a renewed effort to build new credibility. The PTA Council had been dormant for about five years.
Even without the fresh infusion of money promised by the bond issues for bricks and mortar, the Meridian School Board is taking steps to build new connections with the public.
School board meetings are open to the public and a schedule has been published through June 2001. Many of the meetings are scheduled at the schools themselves and away from the Central Office. Meetings of the PTA Council are also open to the public.
And, Wade said she wants parents to know they are more than welcome to visit classrooms during and after school hours to talk to teachers.
As for the PTA Council, "This is the first year that we're meeting regularly and we have had a lot of support from principals and administrators," she said. "We see a need to get parents more active in education."
But getting more parents involved is something of a chore.
Witherspoon, a 112-year-old wooden structure which is ineligible for state maintenance money, was recommended for closure, with students being absorbed into Parkview Elementary. Students in a "Success For All" program at Witherspoon were to be transported to West End Elementary.
And, the bond issue would have financed construction of a new middle school to relieve some of the pressure from Magnolia Middle School on 24th Street.
A new public school has not been built in Meridian since Carver Middle School in 1962, although an architectural firm has been retained to recommend substantial improvements at Meridian High.
But the real answers to the public education dilemma may lie outside the classroom at home.
Wade said she hopes a strategic plan and newly formed commission will help Meridian achieve Level 5
status, after being frozen at Level 3. Student tests at the end of 2001 may help decide, too.
The PTA Council's next meeting is Jan. 9,2001.
Stacey Hancock is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail her at shancock@themeridianstar.com.

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