Taking It to the Streets

Last Wednesday marked a momentous event in Allendale County. Nothing earth-shattering with immediate effects, but some barriers were definitely broken down. And we know that what happened was not the end itself, but a step towards achieving some great goals in this community.

What was it? What happened in a couple of hours one evening, that stirred hope in parents and non-parents, old and young? The superintendent of Allendale County Schools held a “Town Hall” meeting at a local church. It was a step towards including the community in the educational system (since we need families, schools, and the community to work together). As one long-time resident said, “In all my years in Allendale, I’ve never seen a superintendent come out into the community to discuss issues.” What a praise for Dr. Harold McCain.

The Importance of the Church

The fact that this meeting was held at a church was not crucial, but the churches are an important part of the community (along with businesses and neighborhoods). Even more, the pastor said that he would be sure to question his church members who did not attend. This pastor knows that the church and families need to own up to their own responsibilities, instead of relying solely on the schools to educate their children.

This church is one of the largest in the area (I’ve heard that a couple of hundred are in attendance on Sundays), and it also operates an after school program. Therefore, this church provides a great place to start as we work to reach people where they are in the community.

But it was not just church members in attendance. A sizable portion of those at the meeting do not worship there, including a mom that we know that follows a different faith. This goes to show that church buildings can be great meeting places, even for those outside that specific body.

What Was Discussed

The centerpiece of the meeting was Dr. McClain presenting the cold hard facts about the current educational challenges for Allendale County Schools, including:

  • 85% of Allendale children do not go to college,
  • One-third of children who enter 9th grade do not get a high school diploma,
  • A prevalent lack of skills in vocabulary, writing, numeracy, and measurement,
  • While the it improved last year, the state report card still lists the school as “at-risk,” and
  • Many parents and children do not take advantage of free resources (tutoring, after school, summer school, etc).

Dr. McClain also shared his vision on which direction we need to go. He knows that things are not where they should be, but that we need to believe that things will get better, and we need to work to get there. He encouraged the audience to:

  • Set high expectations for the children, and hold them accountable to learn every day.
  • Be responsible to ensure that children are receiving every need and opportunity they can get.
  • Attend school board meetings, and to come to when they hear street rumors (which we’re learning travel fast and hit deep).

What You Can Do

Besides what I presented before in Improving Our School Report Card, here are a few things you can be praying for:

  • One big challenge that the school has been facing in recent years is teacher and staff retention. The district staff is currently screening many applications for teachers and for two principal positions. We need staff who are motivated, highly qualified, not self-serving, and committed to the long-term.
  • We need more parents and family members be engaged in the schools. This can range from volunteering and attending school functions, to being sure the child goes to bed and wakes up on time so that he can be ready to learn.
  • Sometimes we can prefer to be known for bad things, over not being known at all. Some folks in Allendale just accept that we are known for all the negative things. Pray that people here would have a growing hope that things can get better.

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**image courtesy of lusi via rgbstock.com

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  1. You Must Walk In It 042412 « Mennonite Preacher - April 24, 2012

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