Parental apathy

Published 10:26 am Friday, March 11, 2016

When the Southampton County Public School Board recognizes a student at its monthly meeting for his or her academic or athletic achievements, parents pack the wigwam. They take pictures of their child with the superintendent to share on social media and bask in the applause when they’re asked to stand to be acknowledged.

But the moment that the recognition concludes, everyone gets up and heads home — save myself, county representatives and the school administration. When the agenda doesn’t include this miniature awards ceremony, nobody even bothers to show up.

School board meetings are not always the most exciting two hours, I’ll admit, but it is interesting to see and hear all about the various trips that students take or what they’re doing in the classroom.

That said, I’m not sure why I expected more than one person to speak when the school board held a public hearing on Monday night to solicit comments from the community as part of its search for a new superintendent. In a small community such as this, voicing your opinions will only have an exaggerated affect. But while parents and county residents alike openly complain on our website or on social media about the school’s direction or lack of funding, only one person believed it was worth 10 minutes of his time to voice his concerns directly to the people who can actually do something about it.

Yes, the board stated that it has received over 150 responses to its online survey, inquiring which qualifications that county residents deem most important and what they believe the new superintendent should prioritize.

Sadly, if you consider each reply as coming from one household instead of from one parent, that’s only a mere 5.7 percent of the parents of the 2,643 students that roam the hallways at Southampton County Public Schools.

A national poll of 700 teachers conducted by Communities In Schools and Public Opinion Strategies showed that lack of parental engagement is one of the top barriers facing their school systems. Only excess testing and student apathy were more concerning. If it were possible to ask the teachers of Southampton County Public Schools — a number of which show up to every school board meeting — they would probably agree with the aforementioned results.

The process of selecting a new superintendent is the most significant task facing the district, and the impact of the school board choosing wisely, or poorly, will be felt by the school system for years to come.

It would only make sense for parents — whose child’s diploma will say Southampton County Public Schools — and county residents — whose taxes partially fund the schools —to be involved in that process.

However, it’s too late now…

ANDREW LIND is the sports editor and staff writer at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at 562-3187, or at @AndrewMLind.