A year ago, WFPL dedicated several months of reporting to exploring the lives and circumstances of Louisville’s at-risk students. The resultant documentary, At Risk: Louisville’s Daunting Education Challenge, aired in May 2014; you can listen to it below. Nearly a year later, we’re revisiting the students in the documentary.
At home recently, Bryan Bishop got a phone call from the mother of two of his children. She was seven days shy of being released from a substance abuse recovery program.
Bishop passed the phone to his son, Bryan, who the family calls “Kenny-man,” and then to his daughter, Bryana.
The kids like it when their mom calls, said Bishop. That wasn’t always the situation.
“Kenny-man, he wasn’t talking to her for a while. He always just said, ‘hey,’ and then passed the phone. He holds a conversation with her now,” he said.
Bishop is a single father and unemployed. The family was profiled last year in WFPL’s documentary At Risk, which looked at the challenges facing some of Louisville’s struggling students.
Last year, Kenny-man, then 5, had been suspended in the first few weeks of kindergarten. Problems continued from there. His struggles in school appeared to be fueled by issues at home, including a period of homelessness and his mother’s on-going struggles with substance abuse.
Since then, his behavior in school has mellowed, Bishop said recently. His proof: No notes describing misbehavior have been sent home from school recently.
“He hasn’t done too much as far as hitting on people and things like that. We haven’t gotten [any] notes,” he said.
Bishop says his son’s teacher has been a big help.
“I can tell you one thing, the teacher, she has called me everyday, you know, let me know what’s going on, what part of the day he’s messing up,” he said.
Kenny-man still has issues with turning in his homework, or even finishing it, said Bishop. When asked, Kenny-man said he likes school and he likes the work. But his sister, Bryana, interrupted him and said his grades aren’t that good. Neither he nor his dad refute the claim.
Bryana, 8, is in third grade and continues to perform well in school, Bishop said. She herself boasted about her satisfactory marks on assignments. Occasionally she gets into trouble for talking in class, but she doesn’t have a history of acting out like her brother.
“She doesn’t take a lot of it to school with her,” he said. “You know, whatever is on her mind.”
Bryana said she likes her neighborhood in the Hikes Lane area and where the family is living, she said. She said she finds school to be a little boring. Except for music–she likes music and singing. She said her dad would get her a guitar.
In the future, she wants to “be a good mom.” She said this is accomplished by taking “care of your kids right,” and getting a good job and making sure they get healthy food.
Another big change since last year: the kids’ mother, Melisa Russert, is no longer living in the house. Bishop recalls her leaving around summer of last year. He isn’t interested in having Melisa around, he said. But he said it’s OK if she visits the kids..
“I put her out,” said Bishop.
In 2014, the family discussed their situation with the education system.
On any given school day, Bishop wakes up, gets the kids ready, drives them to Klondike Elementary School nearby, takes care of the house and picks up the kids from school in the afternoon.
Not much has changed over the last several months, he said. Kenny-man may sign up for team sports this spring–maybe basketball or baseball. And then there’s the new dog, Chopper.
Russert couldn’t be directly reached for comment; she declined through Bishop to talk for this story. In a few days, she will be out of her program, Bishop said. In the meantime, he continues to play the role of single parent.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen when she gets back out,” he said.