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School board members tour Jonathan St. area

August 08, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

Members of the Washington County Board of Education were led past decaying buildings, a former convenience store that was the scene of a 1996 stabbing and other scenes of the Jonathan Street neighborhood Friday.

Carolyn Brooks, coordinator of the HotSpot anti-crime initiative in the Jonathan Street area, said she wanted school officials to see the area so they understand what children who live there face.

Brooks showed board members vacant houses, including one where weeds around it had reached the second story. Volunteers recently cut the growth, improving its appearance somewhat, but Brooks is worried about children getting into the houses and getting hurt.

"To me, it's a picture that's worth a million words," said Brooks, looking at the building.

The group walked to Asbury United Methodist Church on Jonathan Street, where mentoring programs for children have been started. In the mentoring sessions, volunteers asked kids what bothers them most in their lives. The kids fret about being ridiculed in school, seeing people fight and stumbling onto drug paraphernalia, said Brooks.

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Brooks said some people probably will argue that it's the responsibility of the children's parents to nurture them, said Brooks. But it's impossible to force proper parenting, said Brooks.

"So the village has to do it," said Brooks.

Brooks she hopes school officials can help expand the mentoring and tutoring programs that have been started in the area.

Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett Jr., who was on the tour, said he wants to get Brooks the help she needs.

"There's really difficult situations that come out of here that give us difficulty in the school system. We have interest in this," said Bartlett.

The purpose of HotSpot, a state crime-fighting program, is to select small, high-crime areas and give them added police and crime prevention programs. The 425-resident Jonathan Street area accounts for 23 percent of the county's violent crime.

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