Local schools facing many challenges

Sunday, September 15, 2013

I had a great conversation this week with Tom Williams, superintendent of Sikeston Public Schools. You can watch most of that conversation on the Just Sayin' episode on our website.

With school now fully under way, teachers and administrators are engaged in the process of teaching our students and molding future citizens.

And no one disputes the fact that education today offers more challenges than at any time in our history.

Technology - like the iPad project in our high school - is changing the way we educate our children.

But the one remaining obstacle to effective education remains the inability to prod many parents to accept their role in the education process.

I know this is a recurring theme that I explore quite often. But in virtually every conversation with those involved in education, the one missing ingredient in the education system is all-too-often parental responsibility.

But in Sikeston, we also face an issue that many other school districts face.

Our school buildings are showing their age. And these older buildings form a challenge just by themselves.

Lee Hunter and Matthews elementary schools were both constructed in the 1950s. Southeast Elementary School came along in the 1960 as did the Sikeston High School.

Today, a couple thousand of our students enter buildings that were constructed before their parents were even born.

We all recognize that the time was coming when major changes in our school facilities were inevitable.

That time has arrived.

The school system will soon unveil a plan to address these aging facilities and though it's premature today to explore the options, we trust the school board, administration and teachers have combined to design a plan that will take us well into the future.

Another issue mentioned by the Superintendent was the drop in the student population. From a student population of 4,200 in the mid-90s, we have dropped to 3,400 students today.

But please understand - less students does not automatically equate to less problems or issues. It just presents a new set of challenges.

So where have our students gone?

Well most of that decline can be explained by a similar drop in population for our entire community.

It just goes to reason that if your population drops by a thousand in a decade, a substantial portion of that involves youngsters.

Yet even with that population decline, near record numbers of new students enter through kindergarten each year.

In short, our school system is strong. Our technology is impressive. Our teachers and administrators are top-notch.

Now if we can increase both community and parental involvement, the sky's the limit.

And that my friends is exciting!

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