School Superintendent Jones holds community meeting to hear voices of parents; bridging the gap at Robert Brown Middle School

Greene County Superintendent Dr. Corey Jones held a special community meeting, Let’s Talk About It, Tuesday, March 8, 2022, at Robert Brown Middle School in an effort to offer a venue for parents, guardians and other interested residents to voice their concerns, opinions and suggestions relative to the culture of that particular school. Approximately, 60 individuals attended the meeting, along with RBMS staff, central office staff and school board members.
Principal Shawnta Owens opened the meeting with a power point presentation of the various programs offered at Robert Brown to enhance the academic achievement of students. Principal Owens shared her vision of B19—an innovative approach of increasing test scores and achievement for the school.
In his opening remarks, Superintendent Jones welcomed the parents and other attendees and stated that the purpose of this meeting was to listen and hear the concerns, issues and suggestions of those present. Dr. Jones stated that this is important because all the parties, including parents, his office and school administrators have the best interest of the scholars at heart. “ We want what is best for the students and we want to give our students our best,” he said.
To facilitate the questioning by parents, the staff issued cards for the attendees to write their questions and concerns. The superintendent and principal then proceeded to address the issues raised.
A lead question asked was how can we bridge the gap between the school and parents/community. Dr. Jone’s initial comment indicated this was a first step toward that goal and that the administration needed to listen more, be more attentive to the concerns and try in every way allowed to address the concerns, hopefully rendering satisfactory results.
The most prominent issued raised concerned bullying at the school. Many parents voiced concerns that their children were afraid to attend school because they did not feel safe there. They stated that there were frequent fights at the school and they were not satisfied with how these were handled by the school administrators. Some parents indicated that they tried to follow protocol, but did not receive satisfactory results.
Other prominent concerns related to disrespect of some teachers and staff toward students and parents. Incidents of a teacher cursing students or a teacher belittling a student were also raised. One parent noted that the “elephant in the room” related to the RBM office staff. Some parents’ expressions were as follows: “Our phone calls are disregarded, attempts to get appointments with staff or teachers are disregarded, and we are spoken to disrespectfully – talked down to as though we are less than they are.” One parents commented that confidentiality is not observed by staff at RBMS.
Some specific issued from parents related to a child not allowed in the school because he/she was tardy, or did not have a mask on.
At least two parents noted that they had transferred to Greene County schools this year (RBM in particular) only to witness their children’s grades plummeting from the achievement levels they had maintained in previous school systems. They needed an explanation for this.
One parent noted that she could not follow her child’s school assignments on the tablet he brought home, therefore she could not determine if her child was actually doing the required work. The superintendent responded that if the child goes to the after school program he will get assistance in completing his homework assignments and the parent can attend as well to observe this and probably become more acquainted with online process.
All of the concerns were acknowledged and noted. Responses included a commitment by Superintendent Jones that all these concerns would be followed up; some changes were already in process and outcomes would become known soon. “ I cannot discuss or disclose procedures relative to personnel, but you will see those changes, especially regarding giving and receiving respect in the school,” he said.
Jones acknowledged that new approaches were needed to confront bullying in the school. “We may need to explore outside professional assistance to engage students in sessions helping them to conceive of the school as a safe place to share their feelings and fears, and further instruct staff in handling incidents of bullying.
Dr. Charlayne Riley, Federal Programs Coordinator, gave a detailed explanation of the components of the after school program, noting that the service is free and snacks and transportation are provided to students. Local teachers as well as tutors from Stillman College are part of the tutorial staff.
Other general ideas offered to help students feel that they are important in the school could include establishing student organizations that promote their leadership skills; assigning students tasks such as assisting with the morning announcements at the school and student advisory committees to receive and pass along students’ concerns and suggestions for improvement.
Dr. Jones noted he will consider all these ideas and announced that such community meetings will be scheduled on a regular basis as one means of bridging the gap between parents and school.

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