Published 12:00 am Friday, July 18, 2008
By Jason C. Mattox
Those who crammed the North Panola High School library Wednesday night for the last of three public forums conducted by conservator Bob Strebeck were told that changes were being made, and their help was needed and appreciated.
As the meeting opened, Strebeck reminded the audience that North Panola was under conservatorship for academic under-performance.
“We have made some changes,” he said. “Some of them have not been pleasant.
“In order for there to be changes, we have to change,” Strebeck added. “We need everyone working together.
“We need to have the help of you as parents to make our schools better academically,” he added.
Strebeck moved on to discuss the school district’s dress code saying the dress code would be strictly enforced.
“I didn’t create a new dress code,” he said. “It was just not being followed through.”
Strebeck then asked how many in the audience had been in the military, a question that saw a scattering of hands raised.
“How many times have you seen a Marine with his pants below where they are supposed to be?” he asked. “If we are going to have a dress code, we are going to enforce it.
“If your child comes to the school with sagging pants, we will not allow your child to enter the building until that issue is resolved,” the conservator continued. “And we will not continue to correct them about it all day.”
Strebeck said he would be counting on the parents to make sure the students were dressed appropriately.
“We need your help to make sure your children are dressed appropriately,” he said. “There will be no young men wearing earrings, and we want the young ladies to dress like young ladies and have everything covered up. By putting everything on a level playing field with uniforms, we can focus on educating the children of this community.”
Strebeck moved from the dress code to parental responsibility and involvement in the schools.
“We have been told that there have been some people who do not have proper contact information on file with the office,” he said. “One thing you all need to know is that when your child leaves the house and the bus leaves with them, you do not stop being a parent.
“I was told by some in the district that some parents believe it is our responsibility to raise your child, and that is not the case. We need the support of the parents to properly educate these children.”
Cell Phone Use
Parents were also warned about cell phone use by students during the coming year.
“We are going to have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to cell phone use,” Strebeck said.
“I have never been in a school that I can imagine not having a telephone in the office,” he said. “If your child needs to contact you, that will be available.”
Strebeck said any student found with a cell phone during school hours will have it confiscated until the end of the year.
“It doesn’t matter if the phone belongs to the student or if they took their parent’s phone,” he said. “If they are found with a phone, you will not get it back until the end of the year.”
Strebeck said one of the reasons for the policy is because evidence has shown text messaging has been used to send testing information to other students.
“The students are here to educate and to learn, not to gossip,” he added.
Parents learned of major changes to the school’s discipline plan during the meeting Tuesday night.
“This school board still allows corporal punishment,” Strebeck said. “And we are going to use it.”
Strebeck said if parents signed the forms for no corporal punishment, the district will respect those wishes.
“You are taking away an option for us when it comes to discipline, and that child will go straight to a suspension,” he said.
North Panola will not have a self-contained alternative school this school year.
“In the past, in my opinion, it was ineffective,” he said. “We will partner with West Tallahatchie Schools, and if your child has to go to alternative school, you will be responsible for getting them there and picking them up.
“Alternative school is not supposed to be fun, and this one is organized and effective,” Strebeck added.
School Resource Officers
The conservator told parents that the district would have School Resource officers from the Panola County Sheriff’s Office at North Panola High School and North Panola Junior High.
“These SROs have arresting authority, and they are going to use it,” he said. “If your student comes to school when they want to, and are belligerent or profane and disorderly, we are going to hook them up and they will be removed from the school.
“And if any parents come down and act foolish and disorderly, we can hook them up too,” Strebeck added.
Chief Deputy Otis Griffin then told the audience that it was goal of the district and the sheriff’s department to correct the problems that have been continuous within the district in the past.
“You are all looking kind of sad, but you need to look happy,” he said. “We are about to fix it.
“The students are here to learn,” Griffin continued. “They are not going to be disruptive. We are going to take this seriously and if the students don’t think so, you might not want them to come to school.
“If you don’t think we are real about correcting these problems, then you need to get someone to pinch you, because this is as real as it gets.”
Griffin also told parents they needed to take back control of their household from their children.
“I realize there are some students that run all over you at home and come here and think they can run things,” he said. “That is not going to happen. It is time for you to take control of your children and help them get a better education.”