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Miller Middle School

When people hear you are running for school board, they always have something to share.  The most common concern that I have heard from parents is the current state of Miller Middle School.  Former teachers have confided about the culture they left, parents have talked of their kids’ struggles, current teachers have complained about what they are seeing, and community members have shared performance concerns.  My oldest son went to Goodnight for middle school, so Miller is the campus where I have spent the least amount of time.  Today, I decided to go have a look for myself.

Mrs. Jones was very gracious with her time to give me a tour.  I also got to visit with several administrators and a few teachers. I met good people giving what they have to give, and the consensus seemed to be that considering the disruptions and changes, they were holding things together pretty well.  Maybe so, but we don’t get graded on a curve like that.  We have to be honest with ourselves — before we work as a community to address a problem, we have to first admit there is a problem. Simply put, there are more than seven hundred kids at Miller right now who are not getting all they wanted or deserved out of middle school. That is a problem, so we need to tell the parents that we are sorry and promise that we are going to do everything we can to fix the problem and never let it happen again.

Once we are all on the same page, we know that Miller Middle School needs a strong leader TODAY.  The board needs to provide Mark Eads all the resources he needs to hire the very brightest star TODAY for the important work of reinvigorating that campus and restoring discipline and pride in the faculty, the kids, and the parents.  And once we have the right leader, we need to give him or her all the resources they need to be successful.  Then we need to keep Miller top of mind and top of agenda for the board and the community in the months and years to come.  A single board member is never going to have all the answers to a problem, but the first step to solving a problem is admitting it exists.  For too long, acknowledging problems has been taboo, as if it somehow would insult the faculty or kids attending right now.  I think the most pervasive insult is low expectations, or worse, apathy and ambivalence towards another’s plight.  To our Miller faculty, parents, and kids, we love you and we are going to do everything we can do to give you the middle school you deserve and expect.

The Purple Bus

I remember the first time I talked to Mike Boone in 2011. Mike was and is the head of child nutrition for SMCISD. A very unassuming man, he spoke with passion and understanding about hungry kids and their parents. He told me he had money to feed kids in the summer but he couldn’t get the kids to his food. His idea was that he would take the food to the kids; he would customize an old retired school bus and make it into a mobile food delivery bus – purple and all. I thought my church could help gather some kids for the bus every day, so we held summer day camps in two neighborhoods for kids.

It was a wonderful partnership. Every day, our team of four to eight would hold a one hour camp of sports, or art, or music, or water fights, and then when everyone was exhausted, the bus would roll in and deliver lunch. There were days where we had eight kids, but there were days at the end of the summer where we had 30 or 40 kids. The relationships we made that year are a true treasure. One of the kids from that first summer liked my Facebook campaign site last week, and that endorsement means as much to me as any that I have received. And the members of the team were the best, and they are serving kids today as a SMCISD teacher, a non-profit leader, and as parents.

We renewed our partnership last summer and I hope we get a chance in the future to partner with the district and its programs. The best ideas aren’t always the grandest; they are usually a simple solution to a problem, but they are always the product of someone who has a heart for someone else who is hungry, or displaced, or otherwise in a bind. The purple bus is a great example. I think there are more opportunities out there for the district to reach out and engage with the community that it serves, and I hope to be a part of fostering those relationships from the school board.