A leader of Voices of Concern for Danville Schools, a group of parents and community leaders, expressed dissatisfaction Monday with some aspects of area education to the Danville Board ofEducation.
Lakisha Singleton, also a member of the Danville High School council, spoke at the podium as about a dozen other adults sat silently or murmured in support.
Several ministers from Danville and Mercer County sat among the group. Darrick Briscoe, pastor of First Baptist Church on Walnut Street who was defeated in his recent bid for a seat on the school board, was one of the religious leaders present.
Before the meeting, Voices of Concern representatives had delivered letters outlining some of their issues to school officials as well as to The Advocate-Messenger.
“First and foremost, we’re all concerned about our children’s education,” Singleton said. “What we see as parents is that all of our schools need improvement.”
Singleton began asking specific questions such as how parents can understand a recent “needs improvement” ranking from the state or why many student athletes are leaving Danville without athletic scholarships or non-athletic skills to carry them through the rest of their lives.
“This is not the format to answer any individual questions like this,” board member and meeting facilitator Jean Crowley said. “We will be glad to sit down and talk with you all in a work session. We can make special appointments if you want to talk to (Superintendent Carmen Coleman) or the principals of each of the schools. (But these) are all discussions we would have in a different setting than our regular board meeting.”
Most if not all of the schools have had group or individual meetings with parents concerned about test scores, Crowley said. Also, the school board has discussed the issue at previous meetings and work sessions, including during a work session earlier this month, Crowley added. All of those meetings are open to the public.
Singleton asked board members about their expectations for the athletic program.
“Our expectation is the best for all kids,” Crowley said. “Our schools hire the best teachers. Our schools hire the best coaches. The site-based councils are involved ... We always strive for the best.”
Singleton said the group has the same objectives but believes their children are not getting the level of excellence the adults expect and that they deserve.
“Our kids come here and ... they give their blood, sweat and tears on the field year-round and more often than not they go on to do nothing,” she said.
Singleton later expressed concern about what she perceives as a lack of minority teachers and administrators working for the school system.
Singleton spoke about a current athletic employee’s performance and whether he should remain with the school system.
“For a lot of young males, the only person that they have to really relate to is their coach,” she said. “Their head coach is not visible. We need someone that can be a mentor, not just for the football team but across the board.
“Our athletic standards have fallen completely by the wayside, and it’s not a matter of win or loss records. We want our kids to win on the field, but we also want our kids to win academically, and that’s not happening.
“We appreciate the accomplishments over the last 24 years, but we do feel it’s time for a change ... These kids need to have someone who is mentoring them.
“If they are not academically prepared, then they shouldn’t be playing. They should not be playing sports period.”
Board members cut Singleton off several times due to legal concerns.
“Tonight is not the forum to do that,” Crowley said. “We don’t want to sit here and talk about any position or any individual ... that’s not appropriate for this forum.”
The Danville-Boyle County NAACP chapter, whose membership consists of many Voices of Concerns activists, expressed concern this summer that school officials were not hiring enough minorities.
“We are excited to partner with you to increase diversity in our faculty and staff as well as in efforts to improve student achievement,” Coleman wrote in an Aug. 6 letter to then-chapter president Norman Bartleson, who died about six weeks later.
“Like you, we believe the diversity of our community is one of our most valuable assets. It goes without saying that nothing is more important than our children.”
Coleman invited Voices of Concern to engage in a similar partnership with her and other administrators. But Singleton did not offer any available dates when it came to scheduling a date and time for a private meeting as well as a public work session, saying she needed to speak to the whole group about its next plan of action.