From Staff Reports

The quality of Marshall’s public schools and what can be done to improve them is the subject of a community symposium planned today by the Marshall/Harrison County League of Women Voters.

The symposium, free and open to the public, will feature a panel of Marshall ISD Superintendent Jerry Gibson, Marshall ISD Assistant Superintendent Anika Perkins, MEDCO Executive Director Donna Maisel, Marshall Police Chief Cliff Carruth, Texas State Technical College Provost Bart Day, Community Health Core Representative Rick Roberts and parent advocate Juli Jameson.

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Marshall High School auditorium.

“We are hoping, by opening a dialog between this panel of persons with a direct link with the schools and the public at large to make a concerted effort to move MISD from last year’s “D” to at least a “B” said League of Women Voters President Rachel Beard.

The goal of Wednesday’s event, according to Beard said, is to have the whole community pull together to make positive changes. Retired State Sen. Bill Ratliff has agreed to moderate the panel.

“We asked Sen. Ratliff to chair this symposium because of his long-time advocacy for public schools, Beard said. ”He is known in the state as Mr. Public Education.”

Ratliff was elected to the Texas Senate in 1988 and has served as chair of the Senate Education Committee. He is a former lieutenant governor and founded the Raise Your Hand Texas Foundation, which lobbies for public education at the statehouse.

Organizers say some of the issues to be addressed are surveys that show 55 percent of Marshall ISD graduates have no desire to go to college, but have no job or skills and that 35 percent of African-American students are either drop-outs or truant.

A Q&A session will follow the panelists’ presentations.