The Cairo Project -- a report by the students of the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Hope Survives, part 1 Hope Survives, part 2 Hope Survives, part three Download PDF
Hope Survives in Cairo
Napping in class.

Photo by Nancy Remkus.

A student at Cairo High School naps during Betty Lane's English class.

Part Three

But Cairo sports have come on hard times. The football team, once an activity that kept kids off of the streets, folded after the 2005-2006 season. They had not won a game in more than two seasons, and finished 5-38 over the last five seasons. A lack of student interest led to the cancellation of the season.

Baldwin says that for many years he opened the gym at the high school for anyone who wanted to come in and use it, but was stopped from doing so because school officials didn't want to allow just anyone in the community to come into the facility.

“Any kind of activity that kids can be involved in, it's going to make all the difference in the world,” he says. “If you don't give them a place, they are going to find a place.”

As Baldwin sees it, “The problem is, there aren't any citywide activities that kids can plan their summers around. We don't have activities that reach out to every youth,” he said.

Children today have too much time on their hands, Baldwin says. “If you don't give them a place to go they will find a place.”

In the face of everyday disappointments, the best teachers - teachers like Baldwin, and like Betty Lane, who teaches English and Journalism - keep working.

Lane says she sees the effects of poverty. “When a child comes into the building in the morning,” Lane says, “often times they're bringing in their personal problems as well.”

She says she must deal with overly negative students, students who sleep during class, and students who disrupt class. “It's a challenge to overcome the negativity of some of the community. It seems like the students bring that into the classroom with them.”

Still, Lane makes sure all of her students learn how to produce power point presentations and she is one of the teachers who makes good use of computers.

Not all do. “Some computers sit in classrooms here and they're not used for anything educational, just games,” says Hunter. “They should be going online and using the technology to learn, instead of relying on textbooks that are two to six years old.”

Desks in the computer lab are covered with years of graffiti and the computers are more than five years old - prehistoric in the electronic world. They run the Windows 98 operating system, which has not been supported by Microsoft in more than a year.

If only Hunter got new computer hardware and software as often as Cairo gets a new principal and superintendent.

Principals at the high school have a short shelf life. According to Hunter, there have been eight principals during his tenure.

“While I've been here, we've had a principal for three or more years only once, and we've had six superintendents since 1992,” Hunter said. “It's hard to have consistency in what we do as teachers when there is always change.”

Visitors to Cairo High School who ask for the principal are told it is Maltbia. Actually, Executive Dean Maltbia is not certified to be principal. Although he has been given time off from his job to complete certification, he remains uncertified. As a result, he cannot evaluate teachers.

Superintendent Gary Whitledge is officially the principal of Cairo High School. That is, he was principal until he resigned recently from his position after only two years. He told the Southeast Missourian that he stepped down because of a change in the school board's philosophy. Joe Griggs, the school board president, also resigned at the same meeting. Griggs was in his sixth year on the board, and had two years left in his term.

“This revolving door of principals has wreaked havoc on any continuity,” says Newell, the Cairo Teachers' representative. “(Due to the administrative turnover), we lost the battle for discipline and have been fighting ever since to get it back.”

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