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Making headway in public education

By By Buddy Bynum / editor
June 22, 2003
As a product of Meridian public schools Oakland Heights Elementary, Kate Griffin Junior High, Meridian High School who is enjoying a very satisfying career, I'll admit to having a special interest in local education. Public education.
Public education, and I include teachers, administrators and other students, taught me the value of learning, and gave me the early foundation I needed as a prelude to the rest of my life.
And, please, folks, I do not mean in any way to diminish the value of private, parochial and home schooling. Those are all wonderful options for parents who have the money or the time and expertise to teach lessons in math, languages, science, history and all the other subjects.
Many of my friends at Kate Griffin had attended parochial elementary school and when they got to a public junior high it was obvious that had a very solid foundation in both academics and athletics. Lamar School offers a tremendous learning opportunity. So, I know parochial and private education in our community are exemplary.
But let's face it the vast majority of children in this community today, like the vast majority if not all of the children in my old west Meridian neighborhood, will always get their basic education in public schools. It's just a fact.
That's why the capacity of public schools to deliver quality education to the masses of students is so important. Students in local public schools today are an essential part of the future generations that will either make or break this community and our world.
In order to succeed, the students need the entire community working full time for them and the best way to help the students is to improve their schools.
Enter the Meridian chapter of Parents for Public Schools, incorporated in December 2002. PPS of Meridian is part of a national organization started in 1991 in Jackson by former Secretary of State Dick Molpus, a Philadelphia native, and other parents concerned about the future and the quality of their local schools.
Tommy Little, president of the local PPS chapter, and Jim McGinnis, one of the initial organizers, updated members of the Kiwanis Club of Meridian the other day on organizational activities.
While there are more than 50 chapters across the country, PPS Meridian is still relatively new and still in the organizational stages. A board was elected in February and PPS Meridian holds regular monthly meetings on the fourth Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of Union Station on Front Street. Everyone is welcome.
When the local chapter was formed, some of its basic principles were announced. Consider this as a refresher:
Public schools are the foundations of healthy communities and a vital democracy.
Public schools foster social mobility and economic improvement for all people.
Public schools teach tolerance and respect for difference and diversity.
But like Little said the other day, public schools will only improve if more parents especially community and opinion leaders have their children in public schools, play an active role in the schools and have a stake in their success.
PPS Meridian is a sounding board for new ideas. Working independently of, yet in cooperation with, the Meridian School Board, the group can help create new, more positive school environments in which parents can actively participate.
Members of Parents for Public Schools know that mediocrity in public schools must not be accepted, and the status quo will be challenged by holding educators and administrators as well as parents accountable.
And, as Little and McGinnis said, PPS of Meridian recognizes that success will be impossible without broad-based support. That means you don't need to have a student in public school to care about public education and want to do something to make it better.
With the dogged determination of leaders like Tommy Little and Jim McGinnis and a nucleus of like-minded people, PPS Meridian can exert an enormously positive influence in a critical area.