Dothan School Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Edwards once referred to Dothan Preparatory Academy as her middle child. She said this while speaking at a local Rotary Club meeting. And, like a middle child, we the parents at DPA, are demanding to be heard.
The parents of this school, and all city schools, were made promises in exchange for a total upheaval of our city school system. We were promised that what we were being asked to give up would pale in comparison to the options afforded to all students both in academia and extracurricular opportunities. We were told that closing a middle school ranking 3rd in the state of Alabama was a good idea and combining four middle schools into one was best for Dothan and for all of its students as a whole. So, we spoke up. Some of us were in favor. And, some of us were against.
Ultimately, the decision was made for us by our school board. A board consisting of a chair whose child was a private school graduate. Another whose children are homeschooled to this day. And others who actively have no children, or even grandchildren, in the system. In other words, a majority vote with no real personal risk to themselves or their families.
That decision has cost our city $3.3 million dollars and 330 students. Unfortunately, that number may be conservative in the days and years to come. But let's get back to the parents.
The parents of DPA chose to stay. We knew there would be a transition period and growing pains but we were willing to forge ahead because we believed in public school. And, remember those promises? Promises of pre-AP courses, A+ curriculum, honors and general class options, early career tech exposure, sports opportunities too many to count and extracurricular activities including art and theatre. Above all, there would be transparency and dialogue. There would even be parent leadership groups set up to work with educators and the community.
Well, there were growing pains. There were communication issues. There was a principal change in the middle of the school year. There were discipline issues. There were curriculum issues that led to the creation of an at-risk school being established to provide assistance to students who were falling further behind. Our students went to school in a continuous construction zone. And, then there was COVID19. There was a further push to assist failing students during this critical time. There were constant reminders about packets not being turned in. But there were positives as well. There were zoom meetings with teachers and classmates.
There were encouraging messages sent from our principal. He even made a video that got us pumped to go back and hopeful that our learning curve was behind us.
The parents of DPA ordered clear book bags, looked at our options with virtual school versus at-school instruction and even confirmed with guidance counselors the type of courses our children would be scheduled to take. Many of us were told that our children would be in honors classes. We were pleased at the precautions being taken by pushing back the start date to Sept. 8. And, let's face it, we were sitting on ready to get back to school.
But something “leaked” — something that we had no knowledge of. Alarmingly, some teachers and faculty also had no knowledge of this decision. A sweet 7th grade parent called to confirm a schedule only to be told there were no longer any “honors” courses for 7th or 8th grade, with the exception of math. All students would be placed together in classes. This includes children who had special needs, children who were struggling and children who were excelling. All would now learn together and the teachers would be able to accommodate all. We were sure this was misinformation because out of all the videos sent out by central office, not one had informed us of this decision.
The rumor was fact. A decision was made to eliminate honors classes. This decision was made before summer. This decision was made at the close of last school year. No parent was informed. This decision became public after the closing date for virtual school, after the closing date for enrollment and after many of our private and county school had already started. This decision has left many of us reeling and angry. We, again, were given no choice.
This is public school. And, we the parents, demand public accountability. Accountability for the promises made before parents and teachers, before news crews and consultants and before all taxpayers. Promises that have been broken again and again.
Representing a group of concerned parents
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