Advocate Staff Report
Caverna is in a rural area that at first glance, would not appear to be a migratory hub. But transient families pose challenges for the 800-pupil district, as does changing socioeconomics.
“We have to try to be creative to overcome those kinds of barriers but as long as the demographics are as they are, it will always be a challenge,” Superintendent Dr. Sam Dick said. The transience is tied to the relatively large number of public housing units in the area, he said, along with low-cost motels and other housing. In a single year, Dick said, it’s not unusual for 175 children to move in and out of the district.
The system also has a free- and reduced-meal rate of 80 percent. Principal Brad Phipps said the high school staff is studying how children of poverty differ from the general population. “That is something we need to get a handle on,” he said. The teaching staff generally had a middle-class upbringing, but “a lot of our kids don’t share middle-class values … so we’re trying to train our teachers to becoming better at addressing low socioeconomic kids and their needs.”
One barrier, Dick said, is overcoming the mindset “where education is not valued at home.”
Math teacher Sara Matthews said while teachers are encouraged to understand the background of their students, it does not mean expectations are lowered.
“We don’t empathize with the students as much because we want them to excel and have high expectations,” she said, regardless of what they face outside of school.
Matthews said teachers know that affects how students act in class, “but we’re wanting them to learn responsibility” so they can meet challenges when they leave.