Let’s provide REAL support for public education


The Mississippi Link Newswire,


I spent over four decades in public education. Two decades in P-12 and two decades in higher education. In 2016, I retired from the profession. Really? No, not really. Real educators never retire. We can never remove ourselves from being committed to the teaching and learning process. We will always be concerned about what takes place at all levels in education. We keep up with changes in policies, curriculum, state-mandates, educational reforms and the views of policymakers. We always want students to have the best opportunities, resources, quality instruction and professional decisions made with their future in mind. As a longtime and life-long educator, I must submit my reflections on the current issues impacting public education in Jackson Public Schools.

The Forest Hill issue must be addressed in a professional, thought-provoking, and as Stephen Covey notes, “a win-win for all. Let’s explore the options. All of us will support a win –win for Brookhaven and Jackson Stakeholders. Really?

• The band director should be offered his job back. Why?

JPS has a shortage of certified educators. From what I have read, this band director has been in the JPS for 13 years and assigned at Forest Hill for 8 years.

Yes, all of us were saddened to hear about the slain officers. We shared the hurt and anguish of the Brookhaven Community. Yes, the timing in that setting was very bad for that type of performance. Weapons of any type, real or toy are not allowed. This was a teachable moment for educators, to inspect teaching materials and ensure that they follow district polices. Teachable moment…..not a pink slip. Maybe, he did not have the time to change the routine, which utilized numerous hours of practice. Surely, now he realizes that flexibility, creativity and a change in instructional delivery could have avoided all of the actions that have taken place.

He has been reprimanded and everyone in the city, state and nation knows about it. He is a trained, certified and committed educator. Offer him his job back, and professional development to address areas of improvement. Allow his building level school leader to work with him and the students.

No views on the leader’s role in addressing this issue have been made public. The leader too is responsible for his professional growth and development.

• Work with the students at Forest Hill. Let this be a great teachable moment for them. They too can learn to make adjustments in life based on current situations. They need to learn that scripts and routine can be adjusted for the good of the order. Teach them to stop, think and reflect. In life we always have to justify actions and decisions. Teach them so they will know how to respond to change. Sensitivity, compassion, empathy are traits from this scenario that can be discussed as real life experiences and outcomes. I am sure the students can come up with many ways to restore a working relationship with stakeholders in Brookhaven, and show that they are intelligent, non-violent and respectful individuals, if directed to use this as a teachable moment.

• JPS has a Better Together Commission. Is it not there charge to enhance, upgrade, restore and transform education in JPS? Where is this diverse group now when the district is facing this critical issue? Is this item even on their agenda, at least for discussion…if not action?

• I am shocked at the position taken by the Mississippi High School Activities Association. How can they make this decision in a “closed session” when the majority of their activities are conducted in Public Schools? There was no mention of the names and districts of the 14 administrators who supported the decision regarding Forest Hill Band. I can understand not allowing for public comment. I surely cannot understand, not allowing interested stakeholders to attend the meeting. This type of behavior empowers stakeholders to have reservations on the fairness and ethical decision -making practices.

There are so many other issues that are impacting teaching and learning in JPS… Let’s provide real support and address the real issues. It is time to get real and offer real support. We must move on to make this a successful school year for everyone.

Retired educators still support public education.

                                                                     LaVerne Gentry, Ph.D.

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