Ullery, who represents Floyd County Schools on State Superintendent John Barge’s Parent Advisory Council, has three children enrolled in the school system. Her oldest son, she said, didn’t have an easy start to his education.
“I chose not to send him to pre-K; I felt like a little bit more time with mommy would be good,” she said. “Worst decision I ever made.”
When her son got to kindergarten, he struggled because he hadn’t taken the initial steps for learning to read. Ullery and her husband, Chris Ullery, spent hours each night working with him, but it was the kindergarten teachers that helped clear the pathway to his literacy.
“His teachers would do intercessions with him. They’d send extra work home, materials, games for us to play with him,” she said. “They were involved and invited us into the schools to be involved with him.”
When Ullery’s son got to first grade, his teacher’s passion ignited a huge desire in the child to learn, she said. “He was learning. He was reading. He was picking up sight words,” she said, adding that he started coming out of his shell, making 100s on his assignments and reading chapter books.
But recently, the Ullery family got some devastating news.
“One of those people that taught my child will not be there next year,” Ullery said. “And that hurts.”
Ullery said she understood why Floyd County Schools had to execute their Reduction In Force plan for the next school year, when 119 employees won’t return. But instead of aiming the blame toward Superintendent Jeff McDaniel and local education officials, she advises concerned parents, teachers and community members to take action instead.
Ullery will head a Parent Advisory Council and community meeting at 4 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Lindale First Baptist Church Christian Life Center, 9 Grove Ave. During the meeting, she’ll seek to help community members understand the reasons behind events like the Floyd County RIF, and what they can do to incite change.
At the last PAC meeting with Barge, she said, the parents on the council were informed of the hefty cuts to the state education budget.
“As concerned parents we asked what we could do, and we were urged to go back to our communities and get as many parents as possible to rally together, to be concerned about this because it’s going to affect our children,” she said.
Ullery said now it’s essential to contact legislators and demand that no more funds be taken from education.
“It’s not Dr. Barge’s fault. It’s not Dr. McDaniel’s fault. It’s not local; it’s on a state level,” she said.
She said she’s worried that students won’t be ready for standardized tests because of the financial stressors coupled with the increasing rigor from the state’s mandated school curriculum. But she implored parents to unite for the common goal of the children rather than wasting precious energy on anger that could be directed elsewhere.
“I love Floyd County. I grew up here. I was born and raised (here),” Ullery said. “I know these people. I know the passion they have — Dr. McDaniel. I knew (former superintendent) Lynn Plunkett, who was here before. The passion they have for this school system is so much.”
She said the teachers’ dedication is what helps students succeed and excel in the classroom.
“Their clock doesn’t stop at 3 o’clock; they stay until it’s very dark outside and the kids have been gone for a very long time,” Ullery said. “They’re working to help the kids thrive in a community where they’ll go to school and they’ll graduate. But because they’re cutting our funds on a state level, people are wanting to point fingers on a local level, but it’s not local.”
Ullery invites anyone interested to attend the informational meeting, regardless of whether they have children and regardless of what school they attend. It’s an issue that affects all state schools, she said, and it’s time to get to the heart of the problem.
“You can trim a bush all you want, but it’s going to keep blooming and growing unless you dig up the roots,” she said. “If we unite together as a family and fight as a family, then we’ll make such a big impact.”
For more information regarding the Parent Advisory Council meeting, contact Ullery at email@example.com.