School officials ask community for their help

(L-R) Selma City School Superintendent Dr. Zickeyous Byrd and Selma High School Principal Stoney Pritchett listen as Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. discusses youth violence and drug issues at community meeting.

Selma City School officials asked the community for their help on Wednesday in a town hall meeting related to issues at Selma High School.

“We realize we have some large gaps that we have to fill in,” Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Zickeyous Byrd said at a community meeting held in Selma High's auditorium Wednesday night. “We have a pathway, but we’re missing the community, the church.”

Speakers included Byrd, Police Chief Kenta Fulford, Selma High Principal Stoney Pritchett, Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr., Jerria Martin of Drug Free Communities and District Judge Vernetta Perkins.

Byrd said teachers tell him, “they are tired and overwhelmed.” Selma High School Principal Stoney Pritchett echoed the call for help. “We are here to educate children, but oftentimes we find ourselves dealing with safety measures,” Pritchett said. “We are not highly trained professionals to check for weapons, fentanyl and things of that nature. But we find ourselves doing that all day long.”

Pritchett said, “I need your help at home, at church. Our kids are crying out for help. We need your help. We need the community to wrap around the kids and create a village. When I was a kid, it was the village.”

Councilwoman Lesia James said that when she was growing up, “the village was everybody my parents knew. And everybody knew my dad. We are in deep trouble. We’ve got to pull these heels off, pull the hair up and get to working.”

Speakers said parental involvement is key. “When I was growing up, my parents came into my room and went through my stuff,” Selma Police Chief Fulford said. “We cannot be afraid of our children.”

Pritchett agreed. “They are not animals,” Pritchett said, referring to kids. “If you approach them the right way, they definitely will respond. We need your support. We (teachers) just can’t do it alone. It’s getting to be tough. It’s getting to be sad.”

Speakers said kids need the church, and churches need to be more involved with youth.

“What we’re dealing with is not a local issue,” Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said. “Where did our moral compass get broken? We’ve lost value for human life. it’s a major problem.”

Selma City Councilwoman Jannie Thomas also stood. “Some of our babies have seen a lot,” she said. “This world will destroy your child. We’re not trying to control your life; we’re trying to save it.”

Jerria Martin of Drug Free Communities of Dallas County said, “Our babies are catching hell.”

Minister Henry Chris Minter said, “We can’t just talk about credentials; we have to do the work. Why are we the way we are? We gotta go where they are. What do we have in place as a community? We got to get back to what matters.”

Cicely Curtis, federal programs director with children who attend Selma schools, said, “We’ve got to get our children back to church. Church is in your heart. We have to share what we know. The grown folks won’t talk, so neither do the children.”

Attendees announced several things being done to help youth and raise awareness. Byrd is starting a mentoring program for adults to work with kids. James said she was organizing a 1,000-person march on Dec. 4. Carl “Dr. Feelgood” Moore said he is organizing a talent show on Dec. 10 with cash prizes, something Moore says catches the attention of young people.

Fulford said the Selma Police Department recently received a grant that includes money for mental health counseling. Martin said her organization provides drug prevention education for all Dallas County schools from their office at RB Hudson.

“Stop playing, Selma! Stop playing, church!” Curtis said. “Let’s build it!”

Guest panelists included Byrd, Pritchett, Perkins, Martin, Fulford and Dallas County District Judge Vernetta Perkins.

The public will be informed by the superintendent’s office of the next community follow-up discussion.

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