and perceptions to the contrary not withstanding,
Mount Pleasant High School is a safe school with
staff and students functioning in a harmonious
environment, the Brandywine school board was told.
"Ninety-eight percent of our
students are doing the right thing. ... We're not going to
let a group of people hold our school hostage for any
reason,"principal Gregg Robinson said. "I would like to
paint for you a picture of the real Mount Pleasant."
He said that, so far this
academic year, there have been 30 incidents of the kind that
state law requires be reported to the police. That, he said,
compares to 40 at this stage of the 2004-05 year and 46 in
That indicated improvement,
he added, was clouded by a shooting at a basketball game in
January. He described that incident as "unfortunate [and]
isolated," but said it is something that could have happened
at any high school.
The immediate response was to
stop having evening events. However, the student council and
class officers prevailed upon the administration to rescind
that decision and, since then, sports events, dances, the
annual musical play and other events have been held with no
Ella Burton, faculty advisor
to the student council, said that the test of returning to
normal operation was a student pep rally. "There was some
reluctance to have [it]," she said. "But the pep rally was a
complete success and a perfect representation of what our
Burton was one of a group of
administrators, teachers, students and parents who backed up
Robinson's report at the board meeting on May 2. In
addition, eight adult attenders at the meeting spoke
favorably of the school during the public-comment portion of
the meeting. No one offered any opposing views. Attendance
was larger than at any other regularly-scheduled monthly
board business meeting during the past few years.
Robinson did tell the board
that "we need your support to work with the other 2%," but,
other than encouraging increased volunteer mentoring,
he did not specify what sort of help he would like to
receive. Board president Craig Gilbert suggest that there be
a follow-up workshop session to discuss possibilities.
Board member Mark Huxsoll --
who has been active at the school and described himself as
going to be "the only member of my family who did not
graduate from Mount Pleasant" after his youngest daughter
attends -- said he wants to alter misperceptions. "The
community at Mount Pleasant High School is important to me.
I really don't like to see it get a bad rap," he said.
"The issues we have at Mount
Pleasant are the same issues we have in the school district.
Mount Pleasant is very much on par with Brandywine [High]
and Concord," Brandywine superintendent Bruce Harter said.
The most compelling testimony
during the hour-long discussion was by Frances Watson, who
came to the area after having to evacuate in the aftermath
of Hurricane Katrina last year. Her son has spent his senior
year at Mount Pleasant and is about to graduate. Drawing on
past involvement with urban schools in New Orleans, she
said, "I don't think anything that is going on at Mount
Pleasant is unusual. Mount Pleasant is a typical high
school. If I did not think he was safe, he would not be
She said the most pressing
problem she sees at the school is lack of parental
involvement. "At most [Parent-Teacher-Student Association]
meetings there are very few people there," she said.
seniors told the school board that they have no fears for
their safety at the school.
"Our violent incidents are
minimal," Otis Blackburn, an interventionist, said. "We're
not police. Intervention means trying to stop something
before it happens. ... We're doing what we're supposed to
Choral director Tom Dean said
he and other faculty members have formed a public relations
committee to counter community misperceptions.
"Unfortunately, the bad things tend to be blown out of
proportion and concentrated on," he said.
Robinson presented a long
list of the school's accomplishments which he said have
received minimal public notice. He contrasted the shooting
incident with the heroism of a Junior Reserve Officers
Training Corps students who saved a youngster from possible
drowning last summer.
George Chambers, one of the
attenders who spoke, said he and several other parents are
willing to work to make Mount Pleasant "a pilot school for
the state" in terms of safety and security.
"We can move Mount [Pleasant]
in a positive direction. Everything begins with us," Lena