senior scribes
text

Mansfield News Journal
School tour sparks dialogue on student home-life barriers
Courtney McNaull

MANSFIELD - As principal Andrea Moyer and assistant principal Tom Hager led state Rep. Mark Romanchuk through the halls of Malabar Intermediate School Monday, they described the obstacles they face in their daily efforts to educate students.

They talked about the challenges of state testing mandates and technology constraints, but mostly, they talked about the educational barriers that start at home.

The topic sparked a dialogue about how schools and communities should respond when kids' home lives present roadblocks to success.

In one week this school year, Hager said, five students in the fourth through sixth grade intermediate school were grappling with thoughts of suicide. Another time, a fourth grader came home from school to find her mother overdosing on heroin.

Moyer said most of the school's parents do care about their kids and their kids' education, but many of them are in "survival mode," just trying to get by day to day. As a result, so much of the educators' time is spent just making sure students are okay and getting them ready to learn.

"So, how do we fix all the things you've described to me this morning?" Romanchuk asked the administrators. "I haven't heard any solutions yet."

Moyer said training educators to recognize and respond to trauma has worked well, so she would like to see an in-house trauma specialist working full or part-time in the school to bolster those efforts. Another step, she said, would be universal preschool to intervene with kids at a younger age.

"No, I don't think so," Romanchuk said. "I don't think the solution is probably inside these walls. It's probably outside these walls."

Hager said he wants to work with community partners and obtain government grant funding for an after school center that would provide a structured environment, possibly staffed by retired educators, where they can eat, do their homework and take part in activities like art therapy.

"I'm not sure that gets to the root of the problem," Romanchuk said. "We have to continue to adopt policies that strengthen that family unit. Sometimes you have to get rid of some things that you're doing because you're just becoming part of the problem. Taking them after school is not the answer. We have to find ways to get them back home into that family unit."

But the reality for too many kids, Hager said, is that when they're not at school they are roaming the streets, sometimes getting into trouble or breaking the law. This lifestyle makes them less likely to graduate and become productive members of society.

In response, Romanchuk implied he feels the solution lies not in having more programs but in having fewer.

"I think the direction you're going in is not going to be best in the long-term," Romanchuk said. "We have, for example, over three million people on Medicaid. Probably a lot of these kids are on Medicaid. I don't know about you but I think that's the wrong direction to be going in."

Moyer said though she understands the argument, she feels having every child attend preschool would make a positive difference. Hager said he still believes it's not in the best interest of many of Malabar's students to go home to empty houses or negative environments.

After the tour, Moyer said she appreciated that Romanchuk took the time to visit and liked some of his suggestions for the school, like applying for grants for educational technology. Moyer said she did not have a political agenda in mind when extending the invitation.

"I just think it's important that people who make decisions about schools, especially in government, visit schools," she said. "He got to talk to some educators and find out some of the positive things that are happening but also some of the issues we're facing, so he can make more informed decisions."

When asked what kinds of policies he advocates to strengthen families, Romanchuk did not give specific examples but did say "we have to support education." He went on to say he supports expansion of vouchers because he feels school choice strengthens families.

Read this and other articles at the Mansfield News Journal


 
senior scribes

County News Online

is a Fundraiser for the Senior Scribes Scholarship Committee. All net profits go into a fund for Darke County Senior Scholarships
contact
Copyright 2011 and design by cigs.kometweb.com