JPS students speak OUT on possible “State Takeover”

October 12, 2017 in Education

By Othor Cain,

Editor,

1 IMG_8724Nearly a dozen students gathered on the steps of City Hall in Jackson Monday to express their concerns about a possible state takeover of the second largest school district in the state. The fate of the Jackson Public Schools (JPS) District is in the hands of Governor Phil Bryant.

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) suggested last month that an extreme emergency situation exists within the district that jeopardizes the safety, security and educational interests of the students. MDE presented its findings to the governor in hopes that he would agree. “We do feel like JPS is definitely in a place where we need some help,” Latoya Washington, an alumna of Provine High School said. “But we disagree vehemently with the fact that a takeover or seizure of our district is the appropriate route to take.”

Washington moderated the press conference Monday that included students from all seven high schools in the district, that serve as JPS Ambassadors. The Ambassador program cultivates young leaders through civic engagement and leadership training for a select group of high school students across the district. Through weekly meetings, intensive workshops and field experiences such as participating in and facilitating community events, the Ambassadors learn to identify, organize and create constructive responses to obstacles in their lives, schools and communities.

Callaway High School Senior Dante Moore, an ambassador with this program and also a newly elected student representative for the JPS board of trustees put his training into action. “I feel that a state takeover is akin to a dictatorship in which the students would have no say and it could destroy the morale of students that are already struggling with school and drive some of us to give up entirely,” he said. “I don’t think that as a district we want that for any of our students. I feel that a takeover would clear out the school houses and fill up the jail houses.”

In a statement released by the Ambassadors they concur with Moore’s remarks. “The loss of our voice will result in apathetic behaviors towards school. It is also necessary for students to generally voice our concerns, opinions and ideas due to the fact that it’s impacting ‘OUR’ future.”

One student expressed his concerns about extracurricular activities. “Not every child goes the academic route in school,” said Joseph Jiles, a junior at Lanier High School. “When you talk about wanting to better themselves, sports is a way for them to do that. Sports is their motivation to make good grades, for a lot of kids, it’s their motivation to come to school.”

Bryant said he would make his decision Oct. 19, when the next State Board of Education meeting takes place and school’s performance ratings released.

Zion Blount, a 17 year old senior at Murrah High School said she read the 680-page report and attended the commission meeting last month. “It didn’t really reflect what it was like going to JPS,” she said. “I feel like JPS can no longer continue going the way it is now, but I also feel like with MDE’s help, we can actually go towards having a better school tomorrow…for generations to come.”

Ultimately, the ambassadors understand that the biggest impact a takeover would have on the district are the students and that student voices should be heard. They also embrace a collaborative effort of working together, giving JPS the tools it needs to be successful.

“I want everyone to know that the students in Jackson are worth it,” said Washington emphatically.” We’re worth rethinking the system, we’re worth teaching correctly, we’re worth giving an adequate education. It seems like a lot of people are misconstrued about that. But the students here are too valuable to suffer through a system that continually isn’t stable.”