MONROE - Monroe City Schools officials last night reiterated their opposition to creating a school holiday in the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It is our belief that Martin Luther King was an advocate of education [and would not] want to have a day off,” David Taylor, superintendent of the district, said.
Linda Tyree of Temperance, who sent her granddaughter to Monroe Middle School last year, told the board that nearby Bedford Public Schools, a predominantly white school district, has adopted the holiday.
“You have more black people in this school than they do in Bedford, and they give Martin Luther King Day off,” she said. “Who is responsible for that decision? I think it is a real disservice to have children going to school on Martin Luther King Day.”
She said it was frustrating to see no board response to a school teacher who told the panel at the meeting that he continues to worry that black students in the district's Lincoln Elementary School perform so poorly on achievement tests.
“It's like, `Oh, he is a nuisance, here he comes again,'” Ms. Tyree said. “I don't see a lot of interest here in Lincoln School. I don't think you care about the Lincoln students.”
Selma Rankins, a longtime physical education teacher in the district, told the board it wasn't showing enough interest in the problems of the school.
“We have to do something different,” Mr. Rankins said.
Area residents have told the board at previous meetings that they want to see more discipline, higher test scores, and higher graduation rates among black youths, which are lower than those of white teenagers in the district.
Mr. Rankins is the only black teacher at Lincoln, where about 15 percent of the pupils are black.
Throughout the district, about five percent of students are black.
Chris Butler, assistant superintendent for elementary education, said after the meeting that the district has been delving into problems at Lincoln in response to residents' concerns.
About 30 people, including teachers, residents, and board trustees formed Partners for Lincoln. The group has met about twice a month since June, focusing on student achievement, student behavior, and parental involvement.
The committee expects to make recommendations before the start of the coming school year.
She said school officials haven't been satisfied with student performance, either.
In a move to address that, the teaching staff a year ago began a balanced literacy program for students in the K-5 grade school. The instructional program stresses everything from the mechanics of reading and good reading habits to setting aside ample periods during the school day to allow students time to read on their own.