Bryan leads first of public meetings

Aug. 09, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Better communication and politics were two of the main subjects that arose at the first of seven community meetings new Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan is hosting from now through September.

This first meeting was held Thursday evening at Broadway Elementary School. Each of the forums will be held at a different elementary school, but anyone is invited to any of the meetings.The recent state budget came up frequently. People asked Bryan, and also discussed with each other, what the cuts to teachers, teaching assistants and classroom supplies will mean for the state of education going forward.

John Haas, who identified himself as a parent of a young child and a former educator himself, asked what was being done about teaching assistants.

“I know how important it is to get that early childhood education,” he said.

Bryan said he and his staff will do as much as they can to minimize the cuts, and others chimed in to say that despite the cuts, they expect all the educators who aren’t laid off will continue doing their best.

“We do it because we love what we do,” said Lisa Wishart, a kindergarten teacher at Broadway, who was also featured in The Herald last week in a Take 5 interview. Her words were echoed by Sam Carter, who said he had worked in Lee County Schools for nearly 50 years and now volunteers as a tutor.

“I’ve never talked to an educator where (salary) was their primary focus,” Carter said.

Vivian Rosser, who said she doesn’t have children but is still invested in the county’s public schools, asked about volunteer opportunities or anything else that could be done to help teachers.

“I think you hit on it at the beginning, with volunteers,” Wishart responded, telling about an anonymous parent who would drop off supplies like tissues throughout the year, which she said made her day and is just one of many ways parents can help out: “It was just a small bag, but it meant so much to me.”

Wishart added that parents could help as tutors or volunteer to work at the PTO Thrift Store downtown, which sends proceeds to the schools. She also apologized at one point for talking so much, but Bryan told her to go on.

“That’s why we’re having these meetings,” Bryan said. “To start discussions.”

Another topic of discussion revolved around discussion itself. Rosser asked how parents could find out what to teach their children before kindergarten, whether teachers share their successful strategies with others in their school and the district, and how the district could make parents and others more aware of volunteer opportunities.

Bryan said information about kindergarten is online but that the schools could do more to publicize it, that administrators strongly promote teachers sharing their knowledge, and that a fairly new local website, www.volunteerlee.com, has great potential for reaching would-be volunteers.

“It’s a resource I think we’ve got to take better advantage of,” Bryan said. “Because there are people out there who’d like to help.”

Bryan also addressed the bigger picture, giving a speech before the Q&A session on the importance of education as an economic development tool and as a way for local students to be competitive in an increasingly global world.

“We’ve really tried to promote the idea that students can be self-sufficient,” Bryan said. “... We all know we live in this world that moves really fast. ... Who knows where technology will be even 10 years from now?”

Case in point: Similar to the student body at Broadway, about half of the audience of about 50 people was Hispanic. The children listened to Bryan speak, but their parents listened to a translator, who was standing in the corner and speaking into a device which wirelessly sent his translation of everything anyone said into a headset they wore.

Bryan said he loved that there were so many children there, and he encouraged people to let their friends know about the upcoming meetings and to remain in touch as the year goes on, even if it’s just by interacting with his blog.

“Please tune in, pick up a phone and give me a call, or shoot me an email,” he said. The blog and his contact information can be found at www.lee.k12.nc.us.

The rest of the meetings are:

• Monday, Aug. 12 — Deep River Elementary School.

• Thursday, Aug. 15 — J.R. Ingram Elementary School.

• Monday, Aug. 19 — J. Glenn Edwards Elementary School.

• Thursday, Aug. 22 — Tramway Elementary School.

• Tuesday, Sept. 3 — B.T. Bullock Elementary Schools.

• Monday, Sept. 9 — Greenwood Elementary School.