School Board tackles safety issues

Published 5:16 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Education say they fully support an effort to improve student/teacher safety at each public school in the county as well as possibly establishing a PTO (Parent Teacher Organization) program.

Those were two topics of discussion at the board’s regularly scheduled meeting here May 13. Board member Tony Burnette motioned to amend the meeting’s agenda to discuss those topics.

“We are now living in the most violent time that this country has ever seen,” Burnette noted. “No one person alone is going to fix that. A PTO will help with that, letting them voice their concerns. If we all share our collective voices to things that make our children better and make our schools safer, then that’s what we need to do.”

Burnette noted there was a fight on May 13 at Northampton County High School.

“We need to talk about things like that now, out in the open. We need to get on top of this now,” he stressed. “We can’t wait until we have an incident where we lose somebody and everybody gets up in arms about it. Everybody should be up in arms right now. Let’s get together now and fix this. Let’s get parents interactive through a PTO program.”

Board member Rhonda Taylor said the school system needs to reach out to local citizens who do not normally attend school board meetings and get them involved in the process.

“We need to get everyone onboard to come and participate,” Taylor said, adding that the PTO program was once active in the county but no longer that way. “[PTO] was a way to keep parents informed. We need that again so we can discuss ways to make things better.”

Board member Dr. Marjorie Edwards also addressed the importance of keeping parents informed and the students and teachers safe.

“We need to make time to go out into our communities where our people live; we have to start with the parents who need the help with their children,” Edwards suggested.

Board member Clinton Williams stressed that he welcomed the open discussion on the topic.

“The two top priorities for any school district ought to be literacy and safety,” Williams said. “We know we have some problems within our district. We need to meet those head-on.”

Williams added that as an experienced worker in the field of correctional healthcare, he is seeing “more and more and hearing more and more of things happening in our schools that mirrors some of that.”

“It doesn’t look good; all of us need to take a role in taking our schools back so that every student who walks those halls feels safe. I’m going to work as hard as I can to make that happen,” Williams stressed. “But I can’t do it alone. The seven members of this school board can’t do it alone. The school superintendent can’t do it alone.’

Williams suggested for local churches, the local chapter of the NAACP, the mayors and commissioners from each town in the county, and the county commissioners need to become involved in a school safety initiative. He said the initiative needs to include discussions about mental health, emotional wellness, and behavioral health.

Board member Barbara Stephenson challenged students to be involved in promoting safety.

“If you see something, say something,” she said. “If things are not going the way they should be in your school, talk to your principal, talk to your counselor, and by all means talk to your parents, let them know what’s wrong.”

At the conclusion of the discussion, Williams suggested conducting a board retreat to further discuss the topic of school safety and reviving the PTO program.

Burnette said he would welcome an opportunity to continue this discussion at a retreat. He also made a suggestion to Northampton Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins, asking if she would consider sending letters to parents to gauge their interest in attending group meetings to address problems within schools and help develop solutions.

Dr. Atkins said she was in favor of Burnette’s suggestion as well as the board retreat proposed by Williams.

“The overall message I would like to give to our parents, to our staff, and to our community is that safety is not a one-way street,” she noted. “It is not the sole responsibility of one person, it is the responsibility of our staff, our community, our parents, and our administration. We want to create the safest environment within our schools, but we can’t do it alone. We have to recognize the need to help our young people to be responsible for their behavior and to create processes and procedures in our schools to help that to happen.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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