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Natchez public school system needs friends

Natchez Public Schools’ Homecoming Parade on Thursday evening was impressive.

The increased traffic and crowd lining the streets downtown were a great sight, and served as a reminder for me that in the midst of all the negativity spewed about our public school system, our children still have strong, enthusiast support here.

You would not know such support exists going by social media posts alone, and that’s a shame. Our school children should not think the adults of this community do not support them, and it does no good for them to hear constantly that their education doesn’t measure up.

We should all be cheerleaders for our students. We should be working actively to make our schools better and change those things we think are out of line or not contributing to student success.

Does that mean we should not criticize our public school officials and their decisions? Certainly not, but when we sit back and do nothing but criticize and not take an active role in working for change, we all fail.

As a community, our criticism should be constructive and we should be willing to help in whatever way we can. Our school board, administration, faculty and staff should embrace that support and outside guidance.

None of those things seem to be happening now. We need to work together to change our attitudes and our approach to public education by working to be an active part of the school system’s success.

The past is the past and I see no use in rehashing that. We have what we have and we need to move forward for the benefit of the future of our community.

The success of our public school system is something critically important to our entire community. Regardless of where your children or grandchildren attend school, it behooves all of us to work to better public education here.

Natchez needs a Friends of Natchez Public Schools organization, a volunteer group made up of a diverse cross section of our community, all who care about our community’s future and want to help create for Natchez a strong, quality public school system and are willing to lend their talents to doing that.

Such an organization could help in many different ways, ways that put to good use the expertise of this community.

For instance, were I an administrator or faculty member or school board member in Natchez, I quickly would reach out to Natchez businessman Roy King, who recently worked to put a state of the art computer lab together at Zion Chapel AME Church, which will be used to teach and tutor area students.

King, who owns Custom Computer Detailing, volunteered his time and energy, traveled to Texas to auctions and was able to put together business-grade computers, all networked, a laser printer, desks, chairs, all for something like $2,500.

Think about what advice and guidance King and others in our community like him could provide in our schools.

We all know the importance of nurturing children and making certain they grasp reading skills by the third grade. We all know children in our public schools may not have the nurturing and caring needed at home. That’s just a sad fact of life these days in many communities. But we have the ability to provide a better way for these children.

What if some of our grandparents volunteered in our pre-K through third grade classrooms to love on all those babies and give them the one-on-one attention they may not get at home? What if we read to those children and instilled in them a love of books and learning, which they may not get at home?

What if companies and skilled tradesmen in Natchez reached out to older school students and offered them an opportunity for summer internships or other learning opportunities within their businesses?

What if school board members and administrators reached out to the many smart private business owners and managers and sought ways of saving money or sought better ways or organization? What if we worked closely with those owners and managers and let them advise the district about more efficient ways of doing business, ways to spend more money on teachers and students, rather than administrative costs?

We need an elected school board here in the worst way. We simply must have that accountability. Every elected official in the city and county should make that a priority and should hound our state legislators until that happens.

We also need community involvement in our public schools in an organized way, like a Friends of Natchez Public Schools group.

Our public school system is just that, ours. And it is a reflection of what we as a community put into it. We won’t make progress as a community in any area until we create a public school system that provides the best education possible for our children.

Jan Griffey is general manager of The Natchez Democrat. You may reach her at 601-445-3627 or jan.griffey@natchezdemocrat.com.

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