Several community leaders in recent weeks have voiced outrage at comments by Waco Independent School District leaders in a Jan. 17 Trib Q&A specifying almost criminal shortcomings by at least some (but certainly not all) parents in struggling Waco ISD neighborhoods. Fair enough. Outrage duly noted.
Now it’s time for everyone to roll up his or her sleeves and get to work.
Today school officials will host 6 p.m. meetings at J.H. Hines Elementary School, South Waco Elementary School and Indian Spring Middle School for parents interested in bolstering relations between their neighborhoods and the academically troubled schools in them. If these alliances are successful, closure of these schools by state officials can be averted. If not, both the schools and the neighborhoods will share in the blame.
Yes, some people ranging from NAACP chapter president Peaches Henry to community activist Robert Gamboa charge Waco ISD leaders went too far in outlining the challenges that some students face at home. Some say school districts should pay more attention to their own accountability. The problem is that, under House Bill 1842, districts will be held accountable — and if they fail, these neighborhoods could find themselves bereft of the traditional neighborhood school.
In a board workshop, school trustee Angela Tekell said she hopes “transformation committees” of local parents can get past blame and help with solutions. She said she doesn’t believe the neighborhoods around the schools are aware of how dire the situation is since House Bill 1842 went into effect: “We’ve got to come together as a community.”
Amen. While Waco ISD voters showed their loyalties last November in approving a tax ratification election to fund intensive campus reading programs and the hiring of behavioral specialists, some of the public meetings we attended at schools last autumn were disappointing in parental engagement. One saw more reporters than parents. Another collapsed into a diatribe over what radio station Waco ISD should have used to broadcast news about the TRE and why the Cen-Tex African- American Chamber of Commerce wasn’t employed to help.
Waco ISD critics have a point: Some parents in economically struggling neighborhoods are busy working two jobs and trying to head single-parent households. Only so much time remains to help local schools. But for those with time and constructive criticism to offer — not gripes, not indignation — the time to step forward is now.