With the Labor Day weekend, the first school year of the unified Shelby County Schools system marked several milestones.
The one we think counts the most is that we are a month into the school year, and this is the point at which school system leaders hope to have just about every child who is going to attend public schools in Tennessee enrolled.
There are all sorts of reasons why some children don’t make it to school on the first day or the first week of the school year. Some are unavoidable. None of them change the importance of what is happening in schools across the country these days, including ours.
Education today is about student growth and intervention when students fall behind. Time is of the essence, which one could argue has always been the case in the development of children. But now, more than ever, that time is measured in hours and days, not weeks and months.
A lengthy delay in students getting to their first day of the school year may be something that happens every school year. But it is not something that should be taken lightly or accepted without continuing efforts to get as many children as possible in school on the first day of everybody’s school year.
Much to his credit, former Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash was appalled by the acceptance of the late school year start for some students, and he began his tenure in Memphis by battling the inertia around what is a legitimate problem for education.
Students who for whatever reason can’t start on time must be helped, and probably helped more given that some of them will not only start late but will change schools several times once the school year does begin for them.
But that shouldn’t stop a community wide effort with a simple goal that can be repeated over and over again – the first day of school comes after school registration and school registration is just as important as the first day to have students ready to learn.
With better coordination of the multiple community efforts that include free backpacks and school supplies and other back-to-school steps keyed around the registration date and not the first day of school – we can have an opening day of classes that may not be perfect but will certainly be a better school year start.
While we are on the subject of coordination, we can’t help but conclude that the school security problems that are totally needless would have been avoided had City Hall fish or cut bait on whether Memphis police would be involved after the merger took effect. Instead school officials heard too many instances of “maybe” and “we’ll get back to you” when a decision was needed to plan for one of the most critical elements of school life outside the classroom.