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A tired school, tired parents

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By Vanessa Hurst

Recently the character and involvement of New Haven School parents came under question when a Nelson County School board member made some comments during a February working session.

The school board member was quoted in an article by the Nelson County Gazette as saying the following during a discussion of parental involvement (or lack of) at New Haven School; “I think it’s the world we live in. The reality is that people are selfish and don’t put their children first. They stay home and watch reality TV and not bring their kids to math night. If you’re at home and you’re hammered, you can’t drive your kid back to school,” she said. “If you’ve been drinking all day or you’ve been doing drugs, you’re not going to get up and take a shower and take your child to school for extra work.”

After watching a video of the meeting I have come to the conclusion that the only context the Gazette took liberties with was the order in which these statements were made. I’m not writing to pick apart these comments or go into the appropriate setting to voice such opinions.

New Haven, like any small community, has its issues. It’s no secret we aren’t Mayberry. But Mayberry doesn’t exist anywhere, not anymore, not in Fairfield, not in Chaplin, not in Bloomfield, not in Howardstown, New Hope, Boston, Bardstown or any corner of Nelson County. Mayberry isn’t even in LaRue County where the school district ranks 8th in the state. The board member was right that this is the world we live in; it’s all over the United States.

There are many reasons why parental involvement is down at New Haven School. Most families in New Haven School have both parents working; some work first shift but many work second or third shift jobs. A number of those jobs are more than 20 miles from home in Elizabethtown and even Louisville. Many parents can’t take off an hour early to attend school functions and have to notify their employer sometimes a month in advance of a scheduled day off.

Childcare is a huge issue for New Haven families, before, during and after school. My family and many of my friends have multiple children. If I have to work late, it’s all on my husband to run around after a toddler while trying to participate with two students who would like to be involved in any of the after school activities and vice versa. Finding a friend who can take our toddler for the evening is a challenge because our friends are in the same boat. Grandparents aren’t always retired and free to help out because they work too, and in some cases grandparents are raising the student themselves. This problem is not unique to New Haven and can also be found all over the United States.

So what is it about New Haven? Why don’t parents feel compelled to get involved? This is my opinion, based purely on my personal observations; New Haven School families don’t feel like the Nelson County School Board is willing to make any real investment in our community. In the mind of southern Nelson county families, it has always been this way. The narrative of this story can be seen in the playground at New Haven School; part of the playground consists of equipment that I played on when I went to school at New Haven, other pieces of equipment are leftover from the renovations of another school that got upgraded equipment. Not a whole lot has changed from the time I went to New Haven School compared to now. Our school building is tired; we travel to other schools for sporting events and see major renovations that have been made or perhaps a new gymnasium (that is actually part of the school building), we see wonderful facilities that other children throughout the county are learning in. No real and lasting investments have been made here in our community for our students; sure, we have some new windows, a refinished gym floor and freshly paved parking lots.

Like our old school building, we’re tired. We’re tired of the same old politics, prejudices and agendas holding us back. When nothing looks like it will ever change many parents don’t want to make an investment of their time. Time that is better spent taking a child to religion classes, sporting events, fishing, and hunting, camping or floating the Rolling Fork River; learning the things that set us apart and make us uniquely New Haven.

We may be tired, but the time is now to step up, New Haven parents. I’m calling on you to be the change we need to see. We have some awesome teachers and leaders in our school, it’s time we start working together to improve things for our children. Parents, we can find ways to get involved and change the perceptions of our community. Together we can change our school and make New Haven a place that is enviable and a model for other small communities. We have plenty of community pride, lets channel it into our school; we owe it to our children.

I’m also calling on parents to start holding the district accountable. Look at our representation on the board and ask yourself these questions: Are New Haven’s values and interests truly being reflected in our representation on the school board? Is there an undeniable interest in the wellbeing of our school and our community? Pay attention to what is going on and let the board and our school know what it is that New Haven School families really need. Let your voice be heard, but keep it civil.

Finally, to the Nelson County School Board: Superintendent Dr. Anthony Orr said during this same working session; “I think we’re going to see progress, but we’re also going to have barriers that are outside our control.” Dr. Orr is right, there are barriers that are outside our control, but the board doesn’t need to create new ones.