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Superintendent responds to parents’ questions about new school system

By Bill ShortMMS Meet and Greet 1

Several Millington residents chatted among themselves preparing questions for Millington Municipal Schools Superintendent Dr. David Roper and some of the members of the Millington School Board last Wednesday in the Millington Civic Center.

Several Millington residents chatted among themselves preparing questions for Millington Municipal Schools Superintendent Dr. David Roper and some of the members of the Millington School Board last Wednesday in the Millington Civic Center.

MMS meet and greet Roper

Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, discussed “arrangements” last week for the transportation, feeding and instruction of students during the upcoming academic year.
While acknowledging that the bus routes have not yet been “finalized,” he said they are expected to be ready on July 29, when parents register their children from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the four schools in the municipal district.
Roper made the comments on July 16 while responding to parents’ questions about the new school system during a Community Meeting in the Harvell Civic Center Auditorium.
He noted that the route information will include what time a bus is scheduled to come through a neighborhood, what its number will be and where it will pick up students.
Roper said a “tremendous amount” of work is required to “get all that in place,” because the municipal district cannot use the same routes that the Shelby County buses ran last year.
He noted that many children who previously rode buses to Millington’s schools will no longer be eligible, because they are out-of-district students.
And some children, especially in the Lucy community, who were not enrolled in the local schools last year are now in-district students and eligible for transportation.
“But those routes were not even in existence last year, when those students attended a Shelby County school,” he said. “So, it’s a major undertaking just to plan these new bus routes.”
Regarding student nutrition, Roper said the school system is “making arrangements” through the federal Community Eligibility Program for all students attending the Millington schools to eat breakfast and lunch there at no charge. They do not have to be eligible under the old Free and Reduced-Price Lunch Program.
“We certainly hope that you’ll plan on having your child take advantage of that program,” he told the parents. “And unlike last year under Shelby County Schools, the lunches will be prepared by our cafeteria staff in our cafeterias.”
Roper noted that the July 29 registration is for all children in all the Millington schools. Even if they pre-registered in the spring and brought all the requested documents, he said they must present “specific items” at “regular registration,” or they cannot begin attending the schools.
The superintendent said the Shelby County School System is “insisting” that a child’s records not be released to the municipal districts without a consent form signed by the parent. So, those forms will be available at the July 29 registration.
“Even if you have already signed a consent for release of records,” he said, “we’re going to ask you to sign another one. This is our only opportunity to make absolutely certain that we have that permission from every parent.”
Roper acknowledged that, for the upcoming academic year, the municipal district will not have a policy requiring all students to wear school “uniforms.” For the following years, he said, an “in-depth” study will be conducted to determine whether that would be in the “best interest” of the schools.
But noting that the district will have a “dress code,” he said parents will be given specific information about that before the first day of school. In the meantime, he urged them to use “common sense” regarding what is and is not “appropriate.”
“Do not go out and buy any halter tops for your daughters to wear to school,” he cautioned. “I can tell you right now that’s not going to be a possibility. We’re not going to allow short-shorts or things that show somebody’s midriff.”
Roper said students enrolled in the schools that have “before-school-care” programs will be allowed to enter the buildings early in the morning.
“At the middle school and high school,” he said, “we have not set a maximum length of time before that first bell that students can enter. We’ll try to get that to you as soon as we can.”
Roper also said the school system is “within a handful” of being “fully staffed” with teachers and other “certificated” employees.
Because there is still some “uncertainty” about how many students will be enrolled in the schools, he said the administration is applying a “conservative” approach to teacher staffing.
“If we have sufficient numbers of students to come in that we have to add two or three here and there,” he said, “we’re prepared to do that.”
Roper acknowledged that the teachers who worked last year in Millington’s schools for Shelby County were faced with both a “personal” and a “professional” decision. He recalled that, on more than one occasion in some of the schools, he talked to them “face-to-face.”
“I told teachers that, because of the way the transition agreement was drawn up, all they had to do was sign a letter of intent, and we would have a job for them,” he noted. “They would not even have to re-apply for their position. The only exception to that would be if we had to do a reduction in force.”
Roper said the administration has received “many, many dozens” of applications for teaching positions from individuals who want to be a part of the school district.
“We want people who want to be here and want to teach our boys and girls,” he noted. “And we are absolutely confident that we’re going to have a staff that will be able to provide a top-notch education.”
Roper said that, if it is physically impossible for some parents to register their children on July 29, they need to “take the initiative” of contacting the school or the Central Office and give the reason.
“We will work with you on arranging a time on another day for you to come in and register your child,” he said. “But we have to know about that in advance, so that we can make those arrangements.”
Speaking on behalf of the administration and the school board members, Roper expressed appreciation to the parents for their interest in making the new school system successful.
“Please continue to bring us your questions and your concerns if you have them,” he concluded. “We stand ready to try to work with you and to make this a very good year for all of us.”
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