Citizens discuss educational opportunities, challenges at forum

Published 10:31 pm Monday, October 7, 2019

Troy residents from various backgrounds came together at the Troy Recreation Center Monday night to discuss educational opportunities and challenges in the community.

The forum was the first of two roundtable discussions being held by the City of Troy, Troy City Schools and Troy University to seek ways for the community to take action and better education from “the cradle to career.”

Moderated by the David Matthews Center for Civic Life, about 80 participants were divided amongst 10 tables to discuss specific questions prepared for the forum by the organizing parties and the Matthews Center.

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Overall, the questions were divided into four categories: assets, opportunities, challenges and action plans.

Each table discussed the questions individually, and no stances were attributed to any one person when shared in order to protect the safe space for participants to share ideas and feedback.

Some of the assets discussed by the groups were the school’s partnership with Troy University and the public library, the teachers, and workforce training.

The resounding challenge shared by most of the groups was parental involvement.

That lack of parental involvement leads to issues including teachers spending time on basics instead of curriculum and students being disrespectful to teachers.

Other challenges discussed include low reading levels, lack of community participation, lack of knowledge by students about available options, peer pressure and bullying, substance abuse, transportation, poverty, and ad valorem taxes being too low.

Opportunities suggested included a bus system or community involvement to assist in transportation, hiring more teachers to allow for extra one-on-one time, summer reading academies, early intervention with parents, hiring social service workers to be liaisons between the community, parents and administrators, expanding dual enrollment opportunities and more.

Another meeting following the same format will be held Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Troy Recreation Center to ensure everyone has an opportunity to be heard. Guests are encouraged to bring their own lunches to the discussion. Monday night’s participants are welcomed back along with anyone who could not make the first forum.

“It’s an effort to really bring people together and remind us all what an integral part our school system plays in our community,” said Councilwoman Stephanie Baker, head of the Troy education committee. “Strong schools make for strong communities. We would like to see parents, staff, alumni, business and industry representatives, community organizations and nonprofits, churches – really anyone and everyone in our community. Our tax dollars go into the school system; we are all stakeholders and the product of our school systems are the people who make up our community.”

The Matthews Center will return on November 5 after compiling notes from the two forums to help foster a discussion about “next steps” and what actions the community can take to further pursue the opportunities and address the challenges brought forward during the discussions. A date and time has not yet been determined for the meeting.