The superintendent of the Pine Bluff School District said Tuesday that if people want things to change, they have to change the way they do things.
“If we don’t do something different, five years from now we will be having these same meetings; things are going to remain the same,” Michael Robinson said while speaking to members of the clergy and others at Coffee with the Chiefs, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration and held at Galilee Missionary Baptist Church. “We can’t expect our children to grow and flourish if we don’t humble ourselves and stop all this stuff we’re doing.”
“Before I even came to Pine Bluff, there were those who were welcoming me to come, and there were those (who) assured that when I got here there would already be trouble …,” he said. “I came with excitement … and enthusiasm to do some phenomenal things for the scholars of Pine Bluff.”
Robinson said his goal was to let the community know that he was not going to be here for just a short time but had a vested interest in seeing improvements.
“I accepted the call and came here to work and realized that this is a phenomenal city,” Robinson said.
Partly talking and partly preaching, Robinson said it’s time to forget ethnicity and race and time to come together to improve the lives of students in the district.
He said one of the things he is focusing on is literacy scores.
“Fifteen percent of our third graders are reading at or above grade level,” Robinson said. “That’s an increase of 2 percent over last year, but that’s not the type of increase we’re looking for. We can’t do the same things every day and get different results.”
One of his goals, he said, is to see that students have the tools they need to succeed, including Chromebook computers with text books in them so that students can take them home and study that way, much like what is being done in schools in Northwest Arkansas and other places.
“The only thing that is separating Fayetteville and Pine Bluff is accessibility,” he said.
Asked about the Freedom Schools Initiative, Robinson said several students involved in it have jumped four grade levels in their reading ability.
“The parents want the program, and it is a plus for the community,” he said.
The program uses students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff who are education majors to mentor and tutor at-risk students in the district and is funded by the Children’s Defense Fund. Tutoring is being done at the former First Ward School.
“It’s made a great change in the literacy rate,” Robinson said.