Kentucky School Advocate
November 2020Rajiv Johar
Muhlenberg County SchoolsYou joined the board in 2017 and ran unopposed for a new term. What made you want to join the board and continue to serve?
I started serving on the school-based decision making council when my oldest daughter was in kindergarten. I am from India, a poor and Third World country, but there and in other countries, education leads everything else. Some schools are five and half days a week. Parents’ involvement is huge. There is strictness, respect and everything I see here is opposite.You’ve lived here 22 years, but you grew up in India. What was school like for you there?
What I learned in India was that the school was always right. Parents trusted in the teacher, the principal, the superintendent. Parents were all about school. They would take the principal’s side or the teacher’s side. There was no argument at that level except at home, where the student knew ‘I am in trouble.’There have been challenges with decision-making and community pressures during the pandemic.
A challenge you face as a board is peer pressure. People say, ‘But the next county is doing this. How are we going to explain?’ But we shouldn’t feel that way. We should be responsible for our county; let other people follow us.You’re a father with students in the district. How does being a parent affect your role as a board member?
My oldest daughter will come home upset because certain students are irritating the teacher, causing the teacher to yell at them. My son is 12 so his challenges are different. Teachers have no control over middle schoolers. I see teachers losing contact with students after elementary school. That is where we really need to change. We need to grab them at fourth and fifth grade level and mentor them through middle school. We need mentoring for all kids, done by an outsider who can talk about why you should respect your teacher, your parents, your studies and explain what that is going to get you at the end.School districts face many challenges. You feel that educating parents is one of them.
We have pizza, barbecue, giveaways, just to attract parents for school visits. Are you kidding me? This doesn’t happen in any other country where you have to bribe parents to come listen to your kid’s scores or their teacher. You should bring something for the teacher, a gift or thank you note and be appreciative to the teacher. There is a chance for us, as Kentuckians, to educate parents first. They need to understand the measures, the value. Education is free in America. You can get out of poverty by educating your kids.What’s something your district is doing that you are proud of?
We take the time to make the connection with the community and keep them informed. And we don’t make rash decisions. We were one of the last schools to make a decision on how to return to school this fall. And our schools are improving, there is no doubt.Since 2019, you’ve also served on the Pennyrile Area Development District and have been involved in promoting tourism in the area. Why do you feel it’s important to be involved regionally, not just in Muhlenberg County?
I want to see growth. As a businessman, I’m thinking of the future and the need for smart, dedicated employees. I also sit on the city and county tourism board. My kids volunteer at every event we have in town.