Leaders discuss dropout rate at community roundtable

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - "Dropping out is a process not an event," says Montgomery Public School Superintendent Barbara Thompson.

"The children quickly tell us that they're a different population than the children that went to school a decade ago," says Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice.

"Our children are bombarded with Internet, movies, television, and music," says Montgomery Police Chief Kevin Murphy.

These are just some of the reasons leaders believe kids aren't finishing high school.  But they weren't the only ones sharing their concerns.

"Who's testing the skill sets of these high schoolers in reading and math? Because if you can't read you can't do any of those other courses!" says one parent during a community forum hosted by WVAS-FM.

14 panelists and a room filled with parents, students and educators exchanged comments about the challenges kids face and how school systems are trying to address them in hopes of improving the state's 87% graduation rate.

Calnecia Gregg brought her kids to the forum.

"Let them know that education is the key to success. And I just don't want them to be in a struggle for the rest of their life."

Her strategy is already working.

"If you don't go to school you won't get much education.  And then you'll know what to do with your life if you go to school," adds her daughter, Tynecia.

Panelists talked about specific programs created to help get kids off the streets and research being conducted to cut the drop out rates.

But Gregg believes more can be done.

"They talked about change, but they have been talking about change for a while."

"That's why I challenged our hosts from 90.7 FM to hold us accountable--to continue the conversation, pull the group back together," says Bice.

Some people were not pleased with the forum--saying they didn't receive any new information from it.

One man even asked why more local school principals were not there.

When Deputy State Superintendent Dr. Bice suggested bringing everyone back to follow up on the issues, most agreed they'd like to see that happen.

A portion of a $20,000 grant given to WVAS-FM funded the roundtable forum.

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