D.M. Smith parents face school board
by Courtney Stevens
Sep 11, 2013 | 5772 views | 0 0 comments | 58 58 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams came as a concerned parent to represent others of D.M. Smith Middle School before the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday.
Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams came as a concerned parent to represent others of D.M. Smith Middle School before the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday.
"Mr. Lucas, we'll be expecting," said Arlene Sanders to Maurice Lucas, board president, as she stood before the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees Tuesday evening.

Only standing room was left as concerned D.M. Smith Middle School parents filled the boardroom to address concerns they had for their children.

Bolivar County Sheriff Kelvin Williams was the first to address the trustees.

"I'm not here as an elected official. I am here as a parent who cares about his children," said Williams.

Williams read a letter of concerns to the seemingly uninterested board in an attempt to bring awareness to matters that had been brought to the board several times before.

From checking their watches, to staring at the floor, many of the board members did not seem receptive to what Williams and the parents had to say, most of them saying the board would "respond through our superintendent."

One concern highlighted by Williams D.M. Smith did not have a certified pre-algebra teacher and instead has a social study and reading teacher teaching pre-algebra.

"This leaves our children in the sixth grade without a certified teacher in the subject area," said Williams.

"Why couldn't someone hold this administration responsible to finding and making sure we had these positions filled before the school year began," Williams asked the board.

Parents also said students were still without textbooks.

Not only did Williams and the parents address specific concerns but they also included legislation to back up what they were saying.

According to the letter presented to the board, the Mississippi Public School Accountability standard No. 26.1 states that "each school district provides each student in each school with current or otherwise appropriate textbooks that are in good condition."

"How can our children practice what is being taught in the classroom if they don't have books? This is a violation of the regulations," said Williams.

"When some parents moved their son to Margaret Green the first day their son got books," said Williams.

Another concern was that the class schedules of students are still being changed after a month of being in school.

"Do you think that provides stability for our students ... we cannot track their educational progress because of the instability," said Williams.

According to the parents, D.M. Smith also has a problem with overcrowding.

In a letter written to the board, one Spanish class at D.M. Smith has 38 students, and another class was so overcrowded, the teacher could only manage half of the class while the custodian supervised the other half of the class.

Parents also said because of the overcrowding and constant schedule changes students are being marked absent when they are actually at school.

"Our students are constantly marked absent from the class and school because of the constant schedule changes and the instability of this school.

"Students are being unfairly held accountable for a broken system," said Williams.

"I've pleaded, I've been in tears … I'm constantly being lied to," said Williams.

After presenting the letter and asking when the board would make the time to address these issue, the board remained silent.

It was then that Arlene Sanders stood up before the board.

"We have to make that which is personal to us political and that is our children.

"Mr. Boggs are we going to get an answer soon," Sanders asked Trustee Richard Boggs, who simply replied that she go see the superintendent.

"You all tell us to go to the superintendent. Superintendent says go back. Sometimes a light has to go on. Please don’t take me for someone who is ignorant because I am far from that," Sanders said.

"Supt. Thigpen, you better get some backbone and start making some decisions because these folks hired you to do the administration," said Sanders as she addressed Superintendent Thigpen.

Thigpen did not reply.

Sanders turned to the parents and explained to them that if their children are without textbooks they can call the state auditors office and complain.

"You represent the children of the Cleveland School District, it's time that you act in that manner," said Sanders.

Sanders made sure that minutes were taken during the minutes to "show our children that we did not just sit back and let things happen to them and that we stood up for them.

"We are demanding. People, the power is in your hands," Sanders said as she turned to the parents.

After Sanders, the board continued to remain silent.

Kelvin Short, PTSA president, stood up to speak but was waved to sit down by Trustee Maurice Lucas, despite his name being on the agenda, under the reasoning that Sanders had taken up his speaking time.

After the meeting Short said he had planned to "talk about some of the things that had transpired from all of this. I was going to talk about some of the things I had experienced since August."

After the board adjourned for executive session, parents of D.M. Smith students gathered outside to discuss how they might take action.

Many of the parents plan to take their children out of school if they do not see any improvements.

"They aren't learning anyway. How can you take a failing school and know a math teacher would not be there. What did you do to ensure we would have a math teacher," said Renee Story.

When discussing the inability to get in contact with the principal Morgan Dean, Story said, "He's not going to talk to you."

This morning, Thigpen said she had been asked to address the issues in writing and the response will be forwarded to Williams.