By: Charles Jamieson—
Nearly three years ago, our family moved back to my hometown of Muncie from the Chicago area, due to a series of horribly difficult personal events that were occurring simultaneously.
When our move became common knowledge, no less than a half dozen people asked, “Where will you enroll your daughter Kaitlyn in high school?” Yorktown was suggested as was Delta. I remember being surprised that people who lived in Muncie and knew we would reside in Muncie, would be so strongly suggesting, “Oh, you don’t want to place her at Central.”
My response to each one— “Kaitlyn will be attending Muncie Central and graduate a “Bearcat”, without so much as a pause. Now, my baby has actually graduated as a Bearcat, just as I did some four decades ago.
Muncie Community Schools has been in the news an awful lot during these past three years since our return, often for all the wrong reasons. The present condition of the corporation has, in many ways, ripped our community apart. Personal attacks have been taking place, publicly in commentary, in public meetings or on a personal basis, seemingly on a daily basis.
In my view, there are many reasons the school district faces the financial mountain to climb that it does. Most issues, date back 20, maybe 30 years, when no one currently charged with fixing the problems were on the scene causing any of them. This finger pointing isn’t going to solve the problems. Either side refusing to budge on their positions will only add more problems, not resolve any of them.
While all of this is going on, the “children continue to lead us.” When Southside high school was turned into a middle school, it was many of the adults who acted like children. At the very same time, those kids from both Central and South who participated in the marching band, just went out and brought home a state band title while performing at the State Fair.
Time and time again, while adults bickered, it was the students who cleaned up their act and dramatically reduced the number of referrals (behavior issues). It was the students in choir who joined together to perform magnificently at their concerts throughout the year. It was kids who went out and performed their best in their respective sporting events. The kids just went about their business as students.
When we moved back to Muncie, Central High School had just recovered from being graded an “F” to an “A”. Certainly the leadership of Principal Tom Jarvis and the entire staff had much to do with it. So did the students. I will forever be grateful to Tom for his involvement in helping to smooth over some rough patches Kaitlyn encountered her first year at Central. “Thank you” to every single member of the staff who played a role in getting her to this milestone.
Also during this time, I got to know several of the School Board members and both the former and current Superintendent. I met with them. I asked questions. I participated in committees. I came away from them believing (and still do) that all involved are very good people, who care about the well-being of our children and their education. The same can also be said for those on the other side of some of these issues. The problems are not the people involved.
The serious problems these good folks face were not self-caused. The individuals on all sides of these issues, just happened to be the ones charged with fixing them. Good people can, and should, work together to come up with good solutions but must remain focused on solutions, not personalities. Each side must be flexible in their positions, willing to compromise in order to find answers. Each side must listen more carefully to one another. Each side could take a page from the children they are charged with educating. Clasp hands, roll up your sleeves and work together.
The community needs to get behind those people WE elected to these positions. Divisive, hate-filled commentary has no place now. It serves no purpose and most certainly will not resolve one single issue. Muncie Community Schools and Muncie Central High School, like other districts and schools throughout the state, have more than their share of issues, but the problem is not quality teachers, good administrators and a caring school board and, it most certainly isn’t the children enrolled in our local schools. We in the community need to ask ourselves if what we say and do is constructive, designed to move our district forward, or will the result of our statements and actions only be destructive in nature? Are we part of the solution or part of the problem?
As I look back, do I regret the decision to enroll Kaitlyn in Muncie Central? Absolutely not! I would do it all over again, exactly the same way. However, I do think about the family that does move to Muncie, who doesn’t have a long history with this community. What are “we” telling those people with regards to where to enroll their children? What do we say to them about our community? Are we ambassadors for our own community? If not, we should be! We do our ourselves, our city, our school system, our finances, our educators and our students no favors when we strongly suggest people enroll their children elsewhere, or worse yet, live elsewhere.
A successful end result will require give and take on all sides and the realization that all of our schools were built in a different era, a different climate. Things have dramatically changed but our school system has not always kept up and not always exhibited the necessary long range planning. Change is hard and many avoid it like the plague, but change is exactly what is required as is the community’s willingness to embrace it. We have no other choice.
Congratulations to all who graduate, at all levels within MCS. You’ve shown us adults how to lead in the face of less than desirable conditions. Let’s hope we adults learn from your example.
Charles Jamieson is a community advocate and lives in Muncie.
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