As Muriel Battle High School embarks on its second year, some members of the community are skeptical of its success. Fighting caught the focus of unflattering local media last semester, and for the students and teachers who work at Battle daily, this negativity can seem adversarial. Community and journalistic sources aren’t always accurate in describing the environment of Battle High School.
Students have witnessed Rockbridge and Hickman students calling Battle “ghetto” because of fighting. Junior Dillon McCann disagrees with this, stating that “Battle is really diverse, and everybody’s not the same person.” He makes a point that “fighting happens at all schools,” and it is not what everyone describes. Battle is not that different from the other High Schools in Columbia; all three have had incidents of fighting and violence.
Statistically however, Battle is different from other schools. It is estimated that 51.8 percent of Battle’s students qualify for free lunch. This number is significantly larger then Hickman’s 35.9 percent and Rockbridge’s 22.1 percent. Having such a different demographic may be considered a disadvantage, but causes more effective methods of teaching and communicating. Battle’s aim is to “educate kids regardless of background” and implement smaller class sizes with additional support.
Teachers who work at Battle are confident in its mission. Matt Leutchmann has taught a variety of students in his fourteen year career, including gifted, special needs, and at-risk teens. As his students walk out the door, he states his motto “Make good choices, be kind to people, love yourself.” He believes that “every high school has negative press” but community and extra-curricular activities can counter the negativity.
Principal Dr. Kim Presko doesn’t deny that some students or community members will dislike Battle. She states that “most students view Battle as a great place with lots of opportunity, but there are going to be kids who don’t like it.” When asked what she would tell Battle skeptics, she replied with an invitation: “I would invite them come to Battle on any day to see the lunch room and classrooms.” Don’t judge Battle High School and all the kids at Battle on one small group.
Presko’s advice for building Battle’s reputation is that “People with experience [should tell] their story.” The more students and teachers share their experience, the more knowledge the community will have. Battle excels in sports and academics, and has a very diverse population of accepting students and staff. With truthful and accurate information, the gap of negativity and misunderstanding can be bridged.