Smithfield: Opinion

Conservation on education needs to continue

Smithfield, Selma need another conversation on education – and soon

The community conversation on public education that the Greater Smithfield-Selma Area Chamber of Commerce sponsored on Nov. 30 was a start. It brought concerned citizens together to talk about our local schools. Many came hoping to discuss the issues that are holding our schools down and far behind the other schools in Johnston County.

Another forum on education needs to be held as soon as possible, and this time a more genuine discussion between school leaders and the community needs to be aired. It’s not necessary to show a video interviewing talented Smithfield-Selma High students who care about their school. Some of us already mentor students weekly and know that good students are there. It’s not necessary to say that graduates of the high school have become successful adults in many professions. We know this because of our own children who graduated years ago from the school and have done well since. Smithfield-Selma High isn’t the school it was 25 years ago. Our focus must be on the present.

The “sales pitch” to the community and beyond should be that we have identified the problems and we’re going to solve them. Five out of six feeder schools received very poor grades, Ds and an F. High concentrations of low-wealth students attend our schools. Other than Wilson’s Mills Elementary, fewer than 50 percent of our students are at grade level, with an alarming 30.8 percent at Selma Middle and 38.1 percent at Smithfield-Selma High. Our high school hasn’t shown growth in the number of classes offered in years. Far too few of our students are graduating college-ready. We’re losing good students to other county schools, and the transfers continue to be approved at high rates. What will it take to retain them?

I urge our local leaders to hold another forum soon to allow parents, teachers and interested citizens to talk openly about how we can work together for improved socioeconomic balance and quality academic achievement in our local schools.

Susan B. Lassiter