A fundamental problem facing Decatur City Schools is a lack of parental support.
The school system can’t solve the problem directly, so it is making a noble effort to engage the community in solving it indirectly. The first step in the effort is today.
Too many parents fail to provide the resources, discipline and encouragement children need to succeed in school. For many this is tied to poverty, for others to a hectic lifestyle that refuses to make the time. Exacerbating the trend is the growing number of single-parent households.
The school system understands the problem, but there is little it can do to solve it. Teachers see evidence of physical and emotional needs every day, but they are powerless to solve problems outside the classroom.
Schools can cajole parents and hold lots of parent meetings, but ultimately children with minimal parental support are at risk. Regardless of their innate abilities, they are unlikely to succeed in school.
Superintendent Ed Nichols is on a quest to attract 1,000 community volunteers. He wants every student to know someone cares. He wants every student to have someone who will listen and help, whether the challenge is reading or hunger or neglect.
His goal is enormous. Finding 1,000 people who care so much about the future of Decatur and the needs of the children will not be easy. Complicating the mission is the need for background checks on volunteers, which will cost up to $20 each.
The rewards, though, could be immense. At Leon Sheffield Magnet School, fathers are volunteering to help.
For many students, the volunteers are the only male role model available. The volunteers have a huge impact just through their presence. Cedar Ridge Middle School has a voluntary mentoring program using all school employees.
A custodian connected with a struggling student, and soon she was not just checking in on him but helping him learn computer skills. She wants him to succeed, he knows it, and that means everything.
If Nichols could magically impose upon all parents the will and the ability to effectively support their children’s academic efforts, he would do so. He’s trying the next-best thing, and he needs the community’s help.
The chance to get more involved in Decatur City Schools — either as a volunteer, or just by having input into its future — is coming soon.
Public meetings are scheduled today, at 5:30 p.m. at Turner-Surles Community Center; and at other times and locations Monday and Tuesday. For those who want to make a difference, now is the time.
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