Minden Press-Herald

Sep 16th

Madden: This is coming to an end


Meetings gave concerned a chance to vent

Toward the close of the "town hall" meeting, sponsored by John Madden, at the Minden Civic Center, Madden seemed to say his efforts in trying to help Webster Parish have come to an end.

To an audience of approximately 100 in attendance Tuesday night Madden pointed to his father, James Madden, and said, "that's my daddy right there and he told me the other day, 'This is coming to an end with you,' and he is right.

"I have spent $565,000 on it and I'm up to about three quarters of a million trying to help something that doesn't want to be helped," he said.

During the meeting, Madden made mention several times of rejected offers of help from central office.

This was the second of two "town hall" meetings, hosted by Madden, the first held at Springhill.

During both meetings Madden reviewed several findings from the recently released Peabody Report, a six-month comprehensive study, paid for by Madden Contracting.

During the two and half-hour meeting, which included a meal and door prizes for those who registered, Madden encouraged questions and comments from the audience that ranged from the district performance scores, discipline in the classrooms, charter schools, teacher pay, school board member pay and most notably the budget situation with the WP school system.

According to Lori McGarity, kindergarten teacher at Doyline High School, the meeting was great because it allowed people a chance to vent. But she doesn't think it was the answer to the parish problems.

"You know, there are problems," she said. "Are they going to be solved by tonight? Are they going to be solved by the Springhill meeting? Are they going to be solved by the Peabody report? No, they are not.

"Until the economy changes, until parenting changes, until society changes everybody's hands are tied there in the school system," McGarity said.

Children will continue to fail she said, even if she is the best teacher she can be and even if school board members meet, make great decisions and provide teachers with all the materials they need.

And, she continued, "John can do everything that he can possibly think of to do and there's still going to be kids who aren't going to pass. It's a home issue; it's a drug issue."

Bob Dickson, who came to the meeting as a concerned citizen, said he felt the meeting was good for the parish.

"I think it's good that we are talking about a problem. As long as we keep slamming it in the closet and playing like it doesn't exist, we are just fooling ourselves," he said.

According to Dickson, it's time for everyone to get past the anger and become a team working toward the same goal.

"When we realize that we are going face to face trying to solve a problem – we can solve the problem," he said. "But it takes unity and effort and everybody working to solve the problem instead of trying to take care of their on little turf and feeling like they have to defend everything that's going on.

"Because," he continued, "the problem is based on the total outcome. It's not based on one individual."

He continued, saying the city of Minden population has declined in the past 20 years and it will continue without good education.

"We will continue to see a steady decline because people do not come to and live and raise families where you have a poor school system," Dickson said.

During the meeting, many of the attendees defended themselves and their positions, but the atmosphere shifted, and Madden was applauded after Tommy Hathorn praised him for his efforts.

"I believe you are doing your dead-level best to communicate, but all this study to me is total overkill," Hathorn said. "We know we have a ton of problems, but you have taken this gauntlet and we are expecting you or your group – whoever – to come up with some recommendations. This community needs you and I'm proud of you."

That sentiment was carried over by Mike Wilkes, who added what he thinks is the real problem with the system and included a possible answer.

"Mr. Madden, I don't know you from Adam. I don't know why you care and there are certain rumors that run around about your motives ... you care." Wilkes said. "You put your money where your mouth is and, to me, that proves you care. Whatever the reason is, I'm glad you care I appreciate your concern.

"Our problem with test scores is our families," he continued. "We can't fix that. They are busted they are broke. Mommas and daddies don't care and there is nothing in this world these teachers can do to fix that," he said.

But, Wilkes continued, he felt the answer was brought up by Madden during the night's discussion.

"We talked about Sarepta and then we dropped down and talked about another predominantly white school and then we said what about Phillips?

"And the name was brought up – Mrs. Hudson," Wilkes said. "Now, Mrs. Hudson doesn't know me and I don't really know her, but I know this about her she is no nonsense – she is business."

Linda Hudson, the previous Phillips Middle School Principal, had school performance scores in 2010 that were second from the top in the parish. Hudson is now principal of Richardson Elementary.

"Until we start maintaining integrity in our schools and we get no nonsense with discipline in our schools," Wilkes continued, "I think you can throw all the money you want to at this problem and you are not going to fix test scores.

"(It) starts with our school board, down through our superintendent, down through everyone else into our classrooms where our teachers feel like they can send a kid to the office and that problem is going to be taken care of. Until that happens, he said, "I think we are just whooping a dead horse."

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