Reina P. Cunningham
More than 100 people packed the Middlesboro Middle School (MMS) library on Tuesday night, many attending to support the arts and humanities classes targeted to be cut as part of the plan for the district’s budget reduction.
Students and teachers — former and current — parents, community leaders and Middlesboro citizens all came together with what they say to be a common goal — to save the arts and humanities classes in the Middlesboro Independent School System.
As people poured into the school, they were met in the lobby by students passing out black ribbons to those who wanted to show support for the arts and humanities courses that are in danger of being cut.
Upon arrival in the MMS library, attendees noticed two board members — Jeff Greene and Charlotte Webb — were wearing the ribbons on the front of their shirts.
At the beginning of the meeting, MISD Board of Education Chairman Bill Johnson asked the board members if there were any communications. Greene spoke, saying he would like to recommend the board revisit the decision to cut the arts and humanities classes from the curriculum.
The board unanimously voted to revisit the decision, but Johnson emphasized the action did not mean the classes would be saved. He said the decision only means the board will meet in the next week or two to have a work session to make the decision.
Forty-three people signed up to speak during the meeting. Johnson made sure they speakers understood the rules, asking that they their remarks to three minutes or less.
Middlesboro City council member Bo Green spoke first, with many of those following echoing his remarks.
“The argument for the arts is simple,” Green said. “It improves test scores, increases graduation rates and improves post secondary success.”
Band Director Suzanne Lee is concerned for her student in the band program as well.
“No halftime shows at Friday night football games, no more competing against local bands on Saturdays in the fall,” Lee said. “No more Christmas programs or parades, basketball pep band or spring humanities programs.”
During the speeches, board members Webb and J.J. Jones could be seen openly wiping tears away.
After the public spoke, Johnson thanked everyone for their contribution, promising that the board would work diligently to avoid making the cuts.
A working board meeting has been scheduled for Monday at 5 p.m. at the Middlesboro Board of Education Building, 220 North 20th Street.
Reach Reina P. Cunningham at 606-248-1010, ext. 205, firstname.lastname@example.org.