Administrators at Cuba Schools are concerned that the community has been misinformed about the district’s programs designed to help students from less fortunate families. A recent letter to the editor appearing in the January 11 edition of the Cuba Free Press described students being threatened with detention if they arrive at their classes “unprepared.” While school officials admit that students can be punished if they fail to bring their required supplies on a habitual basis, they say the district is doing all it can to ensure that students have access to the supplies they need and that punishment for such offenses would occur only when a student chooses not to bring their supplies to class.
The district currently has 15 different donors providing financial and product donations that help give needy students school supplies, clothes, shoes, and personal hygiene items. The donors include individuals, local businesses, churches, charity organizations, and clubs. Two of the donors that contribute a great deal financially are businesses located outside Cuba.
The school district is also actively involved in supporting the Friday Backpacks for Cuba program that has ensured that needy students receive weekend backpacks filled with supplemental, nutritional meals.
Jennifer Shearer, the district’s school based social worker, said that many donors also make monetary contributions to the elementary school’s family fun events. While it is her job to assess the needs of students from low-income families or otherwise in distressed situations, on a regular basis, she also noted that any staff member can make referrals to assist students found to have needs. Referrals often come from classroom teachers and the nurse’s office.
“The support from our community allows me to keep items on hand to quickly fulfill the needs of our students,” said Shearer. “In the event that I would not have what a student needs, I am able to make purchases to assist them.”
Shearer indicated this is something that she does on a daily basis and that her assistance includes school supplies, so any student in need of pencils, pens, paper, or other materials would certainly have access to those supplies. This school year alone, almost 200 students have received some form of assistance through the school district’s social worker. On top of that, almost 100 students and their families received donated supplies, gifts, and food at Christmastime.
Superintendent Johnny Thompson said it was important for the community to know that the donations have been and will continue to be used effectively and efficiently. “I just want to make sure that our parents know and the donors know that the money is being used properly and that it is being spent on our students,” said Thompson. “We’ve been very blessed as a district to receive a lot of donations in the past. This is a very supportive community, and we don’t want people to get the wrong idea about what is really going on here.”
Thompson said if the need is there, “the opportunity (for help) is there,” and Assistant Superintendent Kim Robinson added that if parents can’t afford to purchase school supplies for whatever reason, “all they have to do is let us know.” The information about who receives assistance is kept confidential.
“A key point to be made is just how supportive our community is for its schools,” said Robinson. “From churches to private donors and the Crawford County Foundation, we get tremendous support in donations of all kinds, and we are very thankful for that.”
The note to parents that caused such a stir to begin with—and which resulted in a letter being written to the newspaper—was a sixth grade newsletter sent home on January 4. It stated that students coming to class “consistently unprepared” would begin receiving detentions the following week. The memo also said any students needing supplies for class should contact the office.
Superintendent Thompson told the Free Press that a system of punishment must be in place to hold accountable those students who simply fail to meet the requirements of their classes on a regular basis due to their own irresponsibility. The detentions are not meant to impact those students coming from families that cannot afford to buy school supplies, and the punishment has never been applied in such a way, he said.
“We want to reinforce the need for our students to show responsibility and to come to school prepared,” he said. “This is not a way for us to punish students just because they are disadvantaged and can’t go out and buy more pencils or notebooks. That’s what our school based social worker is for and why we have put together programs that will help our families in need.”
If you would like to assist a student or family in need, you can contact the school based social worker, Jennifer Shearer, at 573-885-2534, extension 1180.