Responsibility & Responsiveness for the Education of Our Youth
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
July 1, 2004
These two words describe critical traits I have striven and continue to daily strive to achieve during my lifetime, especially in public life. So it was that Mr. T.C. Calvert and the Neighborhood First Alliance invited me to an accountability session over the issue of underperformance of Martin Luther King Middle School. At first blush, I thought that it was a session principally directed at the area school board member and did not necessarily involve me.
Well like you, I have been hearing and witnessing the steady decline all over of the conduct of many of our students. I know that there were and always will be good and great students. The challenged ones often basically have what it takes, but simply do not measure up to acceptable standards. From reports of a teacher friend of mine, teachers feel unsupported and helpless to gain the respect much less discipline for even the most seriously misbehaving students. When this teacher thinks of the national "No Child Left Behind" program, with apparently little or no federal dollars to go with it, he says relative to conduct of students that we need "Zero Tolerance" first!
Then there is the root cause of much of what ails the education system: parents are not sending their children to school prepared to learn! Yet too frequently we hear criticism of our highly underpaid teachers. It is almost as though they are expected to transform delinquency to sainthood!
First of all, I have been privileged to be associated as County Commissioner at Martin Luther King Middle School. Among the many assets King Middle School has had and continues to have is Joyce McCullen. She has stood with the school through the thick and the thin! Also the school has had the inspired and dedicated principalship of John Simpson and vice principalship of Emily Purificato. Both of these administrators and I am sure their devoted staff of teachers and support personnel have made a huge difference.
What brought about the meeting however, is that the leadership of the school today has changed. I am not saying that the present leadership is better or worse. What I am saying is that the community is anxious and desires from what I could discern, to continue an inspired staff that can deliver in the manner in which its previous administration and staff delivered. To that dedication here and elsewhere however, the County must bring a partnership.
The County partnership with schools is critical. We have the Center for Health Care Services. It can deal with the seriously emotionally disturbed student whom a school nurse or a counselor is not effectively qualified to handle.
We have the Juvenile Probation Department. It can arrange ways to meet with the various juvenile probationers at convenient locations that ensure that the probationer is on his or her best behavior in the immediate community. Bexar County also has a Juvenile Justice Academy Education Program, in effect a school for expelled students who might otherwise be on the streets and in the malls further worsening their already troubled condition.
We have a County Constable who can deal with the juvenile issues of truancy and delinquency, which the Justice of the Peace Court must bring to court.
As the Chairman of the County Commissioner's Court Jail Population Committee I have a never-ending fight to keep a sane and responsible level of inmates in our jail. The last thing we need is a tidal wave of juvenile offenders awaiting graduation not from school but from lesser to greater crimes and winding up in our jail. Truly, we can educate or incarcerate. I know we all prefer the former!