Advocate editorial board opinion: Community needs to grab hold of hand extended by educators

March 13, 2012 at 6:01 p.m.
Updated March 12, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.

Victoria school district leaders are wise to reach out to the community. Our children's education must involve all of us.

The district recently organized a meeting for community leaders to brainstorm ideas for elevating the status of education in Victoria. In their remarks to the group, Victoria East principal Greg Crockett and Victoria West principal Debbie Crick said they wanted to strengthen Victoria schools' partnership with the community.

They know the challenges faced by educators go well beyond the walls of our schools. The district's outreach coincides with the Victoria Advocate's public service project focused on education. Still in the planning stages, we are referring to the project with the same slogan we recently developed for our newspaper: Innovate. Educate. Advocate.

The slogan seems to work well for what needs to happen in our community, too. We hope you will embrace the goal, whether you have children in the schools or not. Our community's health is at stake.

Steve Murdock, the former director of the U.S. Census Bureau and state demographer for Texas, threw out a lot of complicated numbers during the district's recent meeting. His focus, though, was simple: We must act now to reverse the trends that threaten our future.

If we continue on our current path, the labor force could be made up of 30 percent of people without a high school education by 2040. Poverty would increase 4 percent.

However, if we can close the education gaps, the state's aggregate household income could increase by $300 billion per year. Consumer expenditures could increase by $224 billion per year by 2040.

What do these big numbers mean? The life of every Victorian and Texan will be vastly better if we improve student achievement.

We plan to publish many more editorials and articles about these efforts in the coming year. We hope you will call and write to suggest ideas for our project and for building a stronger partnership with our schools.

Crick and Crockett asked two questions during last week's meeting:

•  What are your ideas on how we can work together to create a strong educational community?

•  What are your ideas for improving student attendance?

Audience members shared many good suggestions. We will list some of those to the first question here and review answers to the second question Thursday in this space. We urge you to join the conversation and effort. Here are some of the ideas for creating a strong educational community:

•  Incorporate a more robust vocational program.

•  Media! Intentional and sustained focus on the value of education.

•  Instill value of education early.

•  Build relationships/partnerships with parents.

•  Work on the "how to reach" the difficult parent groups.

•  Day-time curfew enforcement. Parent tickets, too.

•  Courts backing schools/police on disorderly conduct tickets.

•  Bring professionals into the classrooms to convey what qualifications it took to get their job. Example: Lab technicians from the area plants talking to students about job qualifications, job descriptions, job pay and benefits, etc.

•  Meet with high attendance districts and find out their secrets.

•  Mentoring program beyond elementary.

•  Work prep programming.

•  Parents must be more involved. Strong educational community begins at home.

•  Resource rooms on campus for parents to learn about education system and post-secondary opportunities (manned by community volunteers?).

•  More emphasis on vocational education.

•  Church communities speak with families on the importance of education.

•  Business respect school-age teens' work load - limit hours.

•  More articles on higher education.

•  Basic Center offers shelter for homeless and runaway students.

•  Use Gulf Bend Center staff to mentor youth.

•  More mentoring for at-risk students - must begin early at elementary level - can't wait until high school. They are too far behind by then.

•  Incentives directly to parents to encourage their child's attendance.

•  We need much more mental health and trauma counseling.

•  Rewarding parents of elementary students - if they get them to school on time.

•  Meaningful incentives - gas cards

•  Need tech programs at middle schools.

•  Create advisory council/coalition to meet monthly to follow up ideas.

•  Develop more programs such as Rotary Clubs' Early Act First Knight Program. It teaches them virtues about education. These might not be taught at home.

•  Establish a hotline.

•  Sponsor at-risk kids.

•  Adult parenting with youth and mentoring for a continuum of years.

•  Connected school, city, county resources, especially courts.

•  Focus on student responsibility, not parenting.

•  Provide a safe learning environment.

•  Pay our teachers and administrators more.

•  Have more consistency between East and West cultures and structures.

Those gathered last week will tell you these ideas are just a start. We have a lot more work ahead of us. Will you join us?



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