Verona meeting seeks to boost Lee County schools

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

VERONA – If the schools on the southern end of Lee County are going to improve, it will take parents, community members and educators working together, Verona Elementary School Principal Temeka Shannon said on Tuesday.
Shannon was speaking at a special community meeting called to address ways to improve Verona, Plantersville Middle School and Shannon High School. About 150 parents from those three schools filled Verona’s gymnasium.
“We are in a crisis,” Shannon said, noting low test scores at all three schools. “… I am not blaming you, and I hope you are not blaming the school. We need to meet each other in the middle.”
The principal of each school spoke, as did Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks. The district’s school board also attended the meeting.
“The schools are working on their plans, and now it is time to stop talking and get busy,” Weeks said. “I think it went well. People were concerned about their kids and concerned about their schools, and I thought it was a good meeting.”
One way parents can help, Shannon said, is by providing their children with educational experiences before they enter kindergarten. Of Verona’s 105 kindergarten students this year, Shannon said, only 27 attended any sort of educational preschool or day care before this year.
“They need to come here already prepared, knowing the alphabet and numbers and sounds,” she said.
Shannon High School Principal Bill Rosenthal stressed the need for parents to help kids learn how to read. He also noted the importance of working together.
“I can try every action plan I want to write, and I can throw $10 million at something, but if I don’t get out and build relationships with parents and students, it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Parent Ashanti Morris and grandparent Kate Brownlee both said they were frustrated some schools don’t send textbooks home with students. That makes it difficult for them to see what their children are learning and to help them, they said.
“I am a grandparent, and I can’t get stuff on the computer,” Brownlee said.
Parent Camille Kohlheim said she believed the meeting was a good start to reaching solutions.
“If the parents step up, we can get it done,” she said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com