Hopefully you read our story in Wednesday’s edition about the Dollarway School District’s meeting this week. It was designed as a brainstorming session to bring new ideas about how to improve the district.
The only problem was that hardly anyone showed up.
About 12 people attended, including Dollarway Superintendent Barbara Warren, Dollarway family engagement coordinator Candice Jones, and district principals Yolanda Prim and Leondra Williams-Savage. We call that a pitiful turnout, especially since there is so much that needs doing at Dollarway.
Stakeholders include parents, other community members and students. Warren said at the event that her district is dealing with substantial problems. A Pine Bluff resident since birth, Warren said she is invested in the Dollarway School District and that she enjoys “how Dollarway would put its arms around its children. We want to continue that and strengthen it as well.”
The Dollarway School District has been monitored by the Arkansas Department of Education since December 2015 when it dissolved the Dollarway School Board of Directors due to a prolonged period of academic problems and the firings of superintendents Bobby Acklin and Patsy Hughey. Warren was appointed superintendent in December 2015 after having previously been the director of the Arkansas River Education Service Cooperative.
Dollarway is in academic distress, defined by fewer than 49.5 percent of students scoring at a proficient or advanced level in math or literacy. Warren said she spoke with a district patron who wants the district to take action rather than engage in dialogue. Warren said she believes dialogue needs to precede action. She summed the district’s mission statement as collaborate, educate and graduate the whole child.
The purpose of the listening sessions are to hold a purposeful, positive and productive session to receive community feedback and promote ideas on how to move the district forward, Warren said.
But, again, hardly anyone showed up.
Former School Board member Dorothy Singleton said she attends Arkansas Department of Education meetings and General Assembly meetings and encouraged other Dollarway patrons to do likewise. During a small group session, she said she wants to recognize Dollarway graduates who are successful professionals 20 years after graduation in a profile called “Where Are They Now?”
Dollarway School District employee Diane Murrell said she wished the district would partner with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. As the mother of two Dollarway graduates, she said her children learned academics and social skills that prepared them for success in adulthood. Pine Bluff Alderman Bruce Lockett noted the tiny turnout but did not deem it a failure because many parents are working. A Dollarway High School graduate, Lockett said parents are responsible for preparing their children for school.
Indeed, Alderman Lockett, parents are responsible. We understand that some parents have to work, but it’s inexcusable for a meeting of this magnitude to be so poorly attended. Where are the stakeholders of the Dollarway district? Where are the people who want this district to grow and thrive?
As it stands now, Dollarway seems like not only a forgotten part of our city but a forgotten school district as well. We applaud the superintendent and other school officials for trying to get folks on board to help them succeed. And we are very disappointed in those who are content to just sit on the sidelines while their school district struggles.
Get off your duffs, Dollarway residents! It’s time to help save your schools.