Leader Blues

Friday, May 30, 2008

TOP STORY > >School activists seek new image

Leader senior staff writer

A recently formed group committed to improving facilities and education for Jacksonville students will hold its first general membership meeting at 3 p.m. Sunday, June 8 in Room C at the Jacksonville Community Center.

That’s according to Daniel Gray, vice president of the Jacksonville World Class Education Organization.

“Last summer, Will (Bond) sent a letter to a bunch of friends who always talked about improving area education, but nothing ever got done,” said Gray. He said the gist of the letter was “let’s do something about it.”

Gray said the two main goals are to make Jacksonville area schools better now through community involvement and to work toward Jacksonville having its own school district.

“We want to dispel the rumor that we are a bunch of elitists trying to control the Jacksonville school district,” he said. The members of the group, which also includes Mark Wilson, Jody Urqhart and Pat O’Brien, among others, grew up and went to school together and got the ball rolling on the JWCEO. Others have joined recently.

“We’ve worked with (Jacksonville middle schools principals) Mike Nellums and Kim Forrest,” he said. We helped them form a parent teacher organization, he added.

“Mr. Nellums has implemented a mentoring program at the middle school for boys. We worked with the district to get two new (Jacksonville area) schools on the 10 year (facilities) master plan to replace four existing schools,” he said.

“The very future of our great community is at stake here if something is not done about the perception and reality of our schools,” Gray added.

“We just want to make sure that other parents and people…have a chance to be involved,” said Bond, Jacksonville’s state representative. “We want to make sure they are comfortable with the goals and aspirations.”

He said an end of the school year meeting would help maintain and build momentum through the summer for next school year.

“We’ll probably discuss facilities issues we’re facing, take the pulse of the organization and determine what are some of the most important things we can do in the short run,” said Bond. “Some people have more insight than we on individual schools.”

So far the organization has focused on the Jacksonville middle schools, which are generally thought to be the weakest schools in the city.

Now that a new middle school and new elementary school are on the facilities list—but contingent upon approval of a new bond issue—“How can we make sure the schools get built?”

“We’re closer than ever to having our own school district,” Bond said.