Parents of children in a Jackson Public Schools music program are gearing up to defend it at a school board meeting today, but as of this writing the issue was not on the meeting agenda. The JPS Board of Trustees failed to the renew the program Oct. 20, voting 2-to-2 on the district's $300,000 contract with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, which the district had maintained for 43 years. The board meets today at 5:30 p.m.
Parent Romaine Walker told the Jackson Free Press that she expects an "overflow crowd" of parents to speak in support of the program during the meeting's public comment section.
Walker is president of the Mississippi Youth Symphony Orchestra, which draws many members from the Strings in the Schools program. Her son participated in the program and is now studying at Interlochen Arts Academy, an elite boarding school in Michigan dedicated to the performing arts. Walker has been communicating with parents of MYSO members through e-mail, and she says her correspondence list has added parents of former orchestra performers and "other parents that we've picked up along the way."
"This is not just our little small little MYSO group," Walker said. "I've had people at church stop me and say, 'What can I do? I'll go down there, too.'"
Strings in the Schools is not on the current meeting agenda, board secretary Vicki Mumford told the JFP before noon today. Mumford added, however, that the agenda was not finalized and would not be until 2 p.m. or later.
Walker says that JPS Superintendent Lonnie Edwards indicated to her that he would put the program on the agenda for today's meeting.
When she spoke to Edwards after the board's Oct. 20 decision, "he told me that the next meeting would be today and that it would be back on the agenda," Walker said. "So I was surprised when I started hearing reports yesterday that a decision had not been made.
"I told our membership that it would be on the agenda. That information has been sent out on a weekly, almost daily basis."
Either the superintendent or Board President Sollie Norwood can add agenda items in advance of the meeting. At the board meeting, any board member can propose additions to the agenda, making a formal motion if necessary.
Walker said that the board could lose valuable time by waiting longer to reverse the Oct. 20 decision. "The more time this goes on, the more detrimental it is to the students," Walker said. "They were all excited, and there's even the fear of whether (the cut) will happen again."
I hope that the tweet that Norwood, Phillips, and Stamps were no-shows and there was no quorum is inaccurate.
So many parents work so hard to acquire the best for their children and if they showed up tonight to express their concerns, after working all day, and the board members who created the concerns are not there, I have even more questions than I had after the original vote that tossed the strings away.