CHATSWORTH – A few parents told Murray County Board of Education members Thursday night if things in the school system don’t change, they are going to take their children to another system.

About 30 parents attended the board work session to discuss problems ranging from a shortage of textbooks to unqualified coaches.

"Our kids are leaving (the school system) and more are leaving pending the outcome of this meeting," said Tammy Timms.

"I'm looking to move my child because of this county," said Ed Pritchett. He said the school system should have enough books for every child, something that has been brought up to board members several times recently. Other parents agreed.

"It seems to be Bagley Middle School I hear it about," said superintendent Vickie Reed. She explained that math classes are participating in a pilot program where teachers are using one set of books for the classroom. Teachers have enough of another math book for every student, but teachers like the ones from the pilot program so well they are teaching from it instead.

Bagley principal Gina Linder has met with teachers on more than one occasion asking if they needed any more textbooks, but teachers don't say they do, Reed said.

"If teachers say they need books, they will get books," she said.

Board vice chairman France Adams said he has been on the board for almost four years and members "have never refused to buy a textbook."

"If teachers want them they go to the principal," he said.

Board chairwoman Pat Hooker said board members will approve purchasing textbooks if they are needed.

"We'll buy books, whatever they need," she said. "But if teachers don't say they need the books we don't know what to buy."

Danny Harkleroad, a former principal who is now head of the maintenance department, spoke in favor of the board members.

"This is my 44th year in the system," he said. "I never asked for a book I didn't get."

Several of the parents who attended wanted to complain about coaches in the school system. School officials advised the parents that identifying employees by name or position could result in a libel lawsuit.

Tony Patterson said his complaint isn't about one particular person, but "the whole system in general."

"Nobody is accountable for anything," he said.

Several parents said coaches are not qualified to coach and wanted to know whom to talk with about having coaches removed.

"The board does not approve or hire coaches," board member Faye Brindle said.

Hooker said the board hires and approves teachers, and the principals appoint coaches from the teachers hired. If parents have a complaint about a coach or a teacher, they should follow a chain of command – the person the complaint is against, the principal, the superintendent and then board members.

"Please don't think we're not interested," Hooker said. She said parents need to go through the proper channels before going to the board members because by state law they are not responsible for "day to day" operations of the school system. Board members set policies.

Harkleroad said he understands parents may not like the chain of command but "I hated it when someone called a board member and didn't call me first."

"When kids go home hearing all this negativity, we're beating our heads against the wall," he said. "We need to get the spirit going with these kids."

Hooker told parents they should not speak negatively about the school system in front of their children because they are teaching children to have a negative experience.

"They just want to have fun," she said. "The seven of us (board members) can't change everything. If every parent encourages their child to make the best of every situation…"

Pritchett said he partially "blames myself" because he has not attended board meetings until Thursday night.

"I don't know what's going on," he said. "We need to work together."

Some parents said they plan to start attending more meetings and trying to help board members instead of "working against them."

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