BY KARISSA MILLER
Iredell-Statesville Schools Director of Community Engagement Marlene Scott shared the district’s three big initiatives with around 30 community partners on Thursday morning during the district’s annual faith-based partners breakfast at Unity Center in Statesville.
The school district is focused on working with nonprofits this year to help students who struggle with tobacco and vaping, substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
Suicide intervention and prevention, Scott said, is an initiative that is near and dear to hear heart.
“Part of the reason that our kids are committing suicide is because they don’t have that person to talk to,” she explained. “We just need them to be able to talk. We have parents who say that they shouldn’t be talking to counselors in schools. But they have to go somewhere and talk about what’s going on.
“We don’t tell them what to do, but we just listen,” she added.
The district provided free resources on all of the initiatives for those in attendance to take back to their places of worship to share with their students.
Superintendent Jeff James said he’s committed to helping students not just be successful at school, but in life. He told the group that it wouldn’t be possible without the district’s faith-based partners.
“Thank you for all that you do,” he said.
James opened by sharing a personal story about the adoption of his daughter, which he explained wouldn’t have been orchestrated without faith in God.
“We are under attack (public education) like never before, but it’s not from outside — it’s from inside,” the superintendent said.
“I’ve never seen a time when people can get up and profess they are Christians and use the word of God to their benefit. … I’ve never seen the word of God so misrepresented in any time in my life,” he added.
James spoke about his faith, the need for faith-based partners to support students and more.
“You guys matter and what you do matters,” James said.
Todd Scott, an advocate for public education and president of the Statesville Branch NAACP, shared information about legislation that could potentially hurt public education funding.
House Bill 823, which was passed by the N.C. General Assembly this fall, will provide tax-payer funded vouchers for families who send their children to private school.
Scott argued that the bill will divert state funding from public schools, which serve a majority of students.
He also mentioned that there is a critical teacher shortage and the need to increase teacher pay.
“We are ranked No. 46 in teacher pay,” he said, adding that Alabama and Mississippi provide higher starting pay to teachers than North Carolina
Scott said that there are teachers in the district who must rely on government assistance programs to support their families.
He also spoke about his daughter’s positive experiences in public education at the I-SS Career Academy and Technical School.
Scott highlighted some of the programs that I-SS offers for students, including early college high schools, after school programs, athletics and many more.
“Encourage your congregations to consider the impact on public education, and ask them to make the best decisions for our public schools. Encourage folks to attend school board meetings where critical issues are discussed,” Scott said.
The district has also partnered with First Bank to provide free financial seminars to parents.