Thursday, July 17, 2008
Holly Springs School District constructs five-year plan
By SUE WATSON
A group of interested parties including instructors, principals and board members recently continued mapping out goals for the Holly Springs School District’s five-year plan to improve education in this city.
They envision a school district where students have an opportunity to get a quality education from quality (certified) instructors and where the community and parents pull together to make this happen.
The third planning session two weeks ago dealt with listing activities to support seven goals – decrease the dropout rate and increase the graduation rate; provide highly qualified teachers; challenge students academically and achieve successful outcomes; implement infrastructure for technology for students, faculty and staff; plan a comprehensive communications network for school, home and community; and provide a safe and orderly school climate.
Consultant Dr. Ilean Richards of the Leland School District said she envisions the school “moving from good to great.”
Superintendent Irene Walton said the goal to decrease dropout prevention and increase graduation rates is being addressed by the district and a plan has already been sent to the State Department of Education for review and input.
She said the district tends to lose children between the ninth and 10th grades, so the district is using data obtained in studying the ninth grade to see how dropout can be halted.
Alternative School and GED programs have two teachers each and will be a continued measure. A vocational program will be geared to help motivate students who are eager to work on projects with their hands and after-school programs will be continued.
“Students say they are not motivated to come to school,” Walton said. Providing new laptop computers to the entire ninth grade this year is meant to both motivate students and to give them access to technology and build skills students need in the area of communication.
Honors programs and Advanced Placement courses are also in the works.
R.J. Wilson, an intermediate school instructor, suggested a cosmetology and barber’s school be added to the vocational technology curriculum which has automotive mechanics instruction, which Walton said needs upgrading.
Richards said students in Leland had requested instruction in hair styling. Programs like hair styling that take more time to develop won’t be implemented the first year of the plan, she said.
Others suggested broadcasting and nursing programs be added to the school curriculum to help retain students who are at risk of dropping out due to lack of motivation.
Recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers has been a challenge for the school district, according to Walton. Suggested activities that can be implemented to support this goal include identifying peer mentors and tutors within the highly qualified teaching staff who will help new teachers with professional development.
“How do we assess the teachers already here? asked Joseph Ford.
“Do a diagnostic assessment on content for new and veteran teachers,” Richards said.
Norma Strickland with ICS Head Start suggested the district partner with colleges and universities for teacher tutoring and professional development.
Wilson added, “We also should be asking, why did the other ones leave?”
Walton said the school does exit interviews and Richards said exit data is needed for use in setting specific targets (percentages) of recruiting/retention for each year of the plan.
Recruiters need school videos to use in talking with prospects, she said. Assistant principals should help new teachers with classroom discipline problems, and incentives can be used to retain teachers.
“Money is not the number one reason teachers don’t stay in teaching,” Richards said.
Supporting new teachers by giving two planning periods a day if they teach more than one subject is helpful.
“They become so overloaded,” she said.
Wilson suggested that the cultural climate in the schools should be laid out for new teachers on the front end.
“They should be asked if they have experience working in the predominately black culture,” he said.
Richards agreed, saying new teachers need to know the culture is diverse in Mississippi.
Sometimes housing is an issue for new teachers, she said.
Del Stover suggested the school district prepare a packet for new teachers that provides a list of realtors, groceries, maps, etc, as colleges and universities do.
Richards said an old Southern-style welcoming party is a good way to help new teachers get settled in the community.
“The feeling of being appreciated must be passed on to new teachers and old ones, too,” she said. “And get their supplies and text books to them by July 4.”
Walton said the district is recruiting earlier this year. The board members agreed to meet more often to get new teacher contracts ready before they sign with another district. And Holly Springs is now giving small salary supplements to science teachers because they are hard to find.
The goal to increase community and parental involvement in school initiatives has been often cited as reasons the students do not thrive in Holly Springs.
Parents say their children do not bring home notes from their teachers, but sign them themselves, said one person in the planning meeting.
Richards suggested taking a short, focused survey to see why parents do not show up at teacher conferences.
Parental participation can be made mandatory to inform them of school policies, procedures and rules.
Richards suggested the district mail out memos to parents rather than send them home with the student. The district can require commuting teachers to contact parents every nine weeks and require they attend one community event every nine weeks.
The district can work with parents of at-risk students to encourage them to get their children ready for school and to school.
Providing academically challenging instruction is another goal aimed at motivating students.
Both remediation and enrichment efforts activities were suggested.
Evaluation of teacher behaviors and attitudes, skills and knowledge of course content and general classroom management practices will help keep learners actively achieving.
Setting a standard of dress for teachers was suggested by Wilson. School districts must have explicit rules on what they will not tolerate, like flip-flops and jeans, he said.
Walton said leadership is required to enforce faculty behaviors and dress rules.
Wilson said low achieving students should have motivating activities as well as high achievers.
Richards said student interests, learning styles and readiness to learn, should also be included as a diagnostic tool.
The school should have a reading plan and literacy teachers and coaches, she said.
And teachers need help in understanding data analysis and statistics, she said.
Building an infrastructure for technology in the schools could include asking for e-mail addresses and cell phone numbers of parents.
As ninth grade students are getting laptops, teachers could use one, too. The district could partner with the city’s Information Technology Center to provide parents and adults access to technology.
Richards suggested establishing a communications network to link school, home and the community. Goal 6 could be included as an activity under Goal 3 (community involvement).
A safe and orderly school can be improved by implementing character education districtwide.
The Primary School already provides character education for students.
News: (662) 252-4261 or email@example.com
Questions, comments, corrections: firstname.lastname@example.org
©2004, The South Reporter, All Rights Reserved.
No part of this site may be reproduced in any way without permission.
The South Reporter is a member of the Mississippi Press Association.
Site managed and maintained by
South Reporter webmasters Linda Jones, Kristian Jones
Web Site Design - The South Reporter
Back | Top of Page