As the Clayton County school system addressed parents concerns about shorter Wednesday classes, Jonesboro High principal Stephanie Johnson told listeners, “There is no option to be an ineffective teacher right now.”
JONESBORO — Parents had their say and administrators had their day in court at nine forums held Monday at Clayton County schools to explain the proposed shortened Wednesday class schedules.
Whether those forums will change anything is uncertain — but school officials insist they are paying attention.
“I don’t want to say regardless of what happens we’re going to ram this through,” said Clayton County school spokesman David Waller. “The decision has been made. But we really are actively listening, and the decision could change.”
To track parent feedback and trends, each forum was to be recorded, Waller said. And a camera was very much in evidence at one forum in the Jonesboro High School cafeteria, where principals from area schools sat up front while nearly 100 parents, teachers and children waited for answers.
Zak Watson, principal of Lee Street Elementary School, opened the show with a district-prepared PowerPoint presentation explaining the new Common Core curriculum that he said would encourage higher-order thinking in students.
But what everyone really wanted to hear was why the new curriculum required letting students out up to 90 minutes earlier than usual every Wednesday.
“Do our teachers take work home? Absolutely, they do. Do they come in on Saturdays? Yes, they do. Are they there during the summertime? Yes, they are,” Watson told the audience. “But not every single teacher has the ability to give up that amount of time.”
It took Jonesboro High Principal Stephanie Johnson to add a little passion to the presentation.
“Either you’re born to make children better, or you aren’t,” Johnson said, making her case for extra time for teacher preparation to audience applause. “There is no option to be an ineffective teacher right now.”
Clayton County Schools chief operating officer Cephus Jackson added a mea culpa a few minutes later when asked why parents had been given so little advance notice on the schedule change, which was first announced publicly in a July 18 letter.
“We could have done a better job [of informing parents] and are playing catch-up now,” Jackson said. “We’re trying to amend that now.”
Parents leaving the Jonesboro meeting agreed that the new curriculum could be helpful but remained unhappy that they hadn’t been told of the schedule change until the last minute.
“I thought it was very informative. We got a lot of questions answered and a lot of clarity,” said parent Sena Badjie. “The only problem I have is that we should have been informed as parents way earlier than two weeks before school.”
But she added that she didn’t think the forums would change anything.
“I think they’re just taking our questions and comments as a courtesy, but the decision is probably going to stand,” Badjie said as she and her daughter headed for the parking lot.