Ideas Pitched, Discussed At First Middle School Forum

KEVIN HALPERN, Courier Co-Editor

Ideas Pitched, Discussed At First Middle School Forum

Middle School Study Group members Kim Parsley, left, principal of Woodland School, and Lisa Black, director of transportation, listen and take notes during Monday's forum.
Cannon County Schools officials were hoping to receive feedback from citizens when they scheduled a series of public forums to discuss the idea of adding a middle school to the county's grade structure.

If the first forum held Monday night at Woodbury Grammar School is any indication, they will receive their wish before the seven forums are completed.

Citizens peppered Director of Schools Barbara Parker and members of the Middle School Study Group with a wide range of questions on middle schools, and offered their suggestions and opinions on the subject.

Parents, teachers, and teachers who are parents of students attending local schools, shared their views and concerns on the need for a middle school, how one would effect existing schools, whether a new school or schools should be built, the cost of maintaining and building schools, the possible loss of teaching and administrative positions, educational opportunities and student safety.

The information discussed at the Cannon County Middle School Information Presentation will be presented by the Middle School Study Group to the Cannon County Board of Education after the forums are completed. It will then be up to the school board, and possible a public referendum, to decide how to proceed.

The second forum will be held at East Side School next Monday, followed by one at Woodland School next Tuesday.

The Study Group presented a number of reasons why a middle school should, and should not me, considered:

Why A Middle School?

1. Aides in transition to high school.

2. Increase students' feeling of independence.

3. Opportunities for increased specialized classes.

4. Potential for more success in sports/Middle School teams sanctioned.

5. More extra curricular activities offered.

6. School is geared more toward adolescents.

7. Promote enrichment opportunities.

8. Older students separated from younger students.

9. Can offer more intervention for behavior issues at this age.

10. More familiarity among students from across the county.

11. Combined resources for science labs, etc.

12. May increase high school graduation rate.

Why Not A Middle School?

1. Most elementary schools in county have good to high achievement now.

2. Pupil/Teacher ratio in some classes will increase.

3. Some students may get "lost" or be too immature for larger environment.

4. Possibility for more issues with attendance and/or behavior.

5. Fewer students can participate in basketball at school level.

6. Athletes travel further to compete in sports.

7. Middle School may be less personal and community oriented.

8. Logistics: Cost, location, bussing, zoning.

9. Possible loss of some schools if new building option is chosen.

10. Increased transportation cost for county and time on bus for students.

11. May have less parent involvement at the elementary level.

12. Fear of the unknown by students and parents.

A series of ideas was also presented by the Study Group for consideration as to the eventual outcome of the Middle School discussions.

• No change (to the current grade structure).

• Convert one (elementary) school into a middle school and bus K-5 to other remaining schools.

• Build a new Middle School.

• Add a Middle annex to Woodbury Grammar School.

• Turn High School into Middle School and build a new High School.

• Turn Woodbury Grammar into Middle School and build a new Elementary School.

• Add all 8th graders to Woodbury Grammar School as a transition to High School program and eventually add 6th and 7th.

Parker said the forums are a fact-finding mission for the school system.

"They are an open discussion of the idea of a middle school. No decisions will be made tonight," Parker said. "We know there are issues or ideas that will come up that we won't have the answers to at this time, but we will try to get them."

The Study Group consists of Parker, school board members Shannon Davenport and Chris Blackburn, principals Kim Parsley, Karen King and Robert Sain, transportation director Lisa Black and supervisor of instruction Marcia Melton.

In addition to Davenport and Blackburn, school board members Randy Gannon, Cathy Hyatt and Mike Mayfield also attended Monday's forum.