Thursday, September 22, 2011
Reason to celebrate
By SUE WATSON
The Holly Springs School District has made giant steps in its overall accountability scores with a district rating of Successful.
The 2011 accountability ratings were released last week by the Mississippi Department of Education.
One school, Holly Springs Intermediate, rose from At Risk of Failing in 2010 to Successful this year, bringing the entire district up from Academic Watch to Successful. Holly Springs High School and Holly Springs Junior High scored Successful both this year and last year.
Two students had perfect scores on the Mississippi Curriculum Test this year, Kiana Dawkins in Algebra 1 and Jonathan Muruako in U.S. History. Passage rates increased in all three subject areas included in the accountability ratings – English II, Algebra I, and U.S. History, according to superintendent of education Irene Walton-Turnage. Biology scores were not included in the accountability ratings because a new test was given this year, she said.
The only area that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress in the district, as measured by the federal No Child Left Behind guidelines, was English II, but the passage rate in the subject increased, Turnage said.
A review of the data shows the district has several things to celebrate, according to Turnage. In addition to the Intermediate School’s new score, the high school and junior high increased in achievement points. Both missed moving to High Performing, a notch above Successful, by only four points, she said. All three schools met state growth goals.
The district’s graduation rate was 77.4 percent, an increase from 2010 and higher than about half the schools in Mississippi, Turnage said.
“We have always known our students were just as brilliant as students in other school districts,” Turnage said. “What we were missing were people on every level who were willing to fight for our students. Now, the school board, school leaders and staff all understand our students are top priority. We are one district with one mission and one vision.
“The mission is to educate students who can compete in the global community, and the vision is to become a Star District with Star Schools – the highest rating attainable in Mississippi. This year’s ratings of all schools as Successful indicates that our vision is a realistic one.”
The vision and mission were developed in connection with a five-year strategic plan that sets goals and action steps for attaining Star Schools and Star District ratings. Turnage said improved leadership on the school board of trustees and district leadership, especially by principals, made this year’s success possible.
“We have come a long way, but we know we have just as far to go,” Turnage said. “With that said, we are happy that the hard work is starting to show.”
Fergenia Hood, president of the board of trustees and a school board member for five years, believes a recently developed five-year plan for the district is reflective of this year’s progress. She particularly cited superior leadership of the superintendent, principals and a Kellogg consultant in helping redirect the schools and implement the strategic plan.
Dr. Ilean Richards, former superintendent of the Leland School District, was hired as consultant to the Holly Springs School District by the Mississippi Center of Education Innovation to support other school districts after she was successful in turning the Leland School District around.
“Holly Springs is fortunate to be included,” Hood said.
“Dr. Richards and the center have been instrumental in our success,” she said. “She provides professional development for leaders, staff, and students at no cost to the district.”
Former school board president Paul Lampley, who has served as trustee for six years, agrees the five-year plan has contributed greatly to the district’s progress. He said the plan of action set some goals for the district to shoot for and a method to monitor progress, but cited the improved working relationships of the superintendent and board as having the greatest impact.
“The main piece is the school board’s relationship with the superintendent, Dr. Irene Turnage,” he said. “There has been an evolving, positive, ongoing relationship with the superintendent. At the same time she has pulled this district to a higher level, she has gotten her doctorate.
“She came into this role with a long-term goal to become a Star School. It’s important for the community to know these steps (increases in school scores) come in increments.”
Turnage said though the district has made these long-awaited gains, there are still improvements to be made.
“We have come a long way, but we know we have just as far to go if we are going to reach our vision of being a Star District with Star Schools,” Turnage said.
“With that said, we are happy that the hard work from individuals on all levels is continuing to show in our schools’ and district’s report card.”
“The vision cannot be attained without dedicated parents and a dedicated community,” Hood said. “More than anything else, the district needs continued parent/community support and involvement.”
A slogan, ‘Accentuate the Positive,’ recommended by Hood, is often used by the school leadership to help everyone to look for the positives. Hood said she believes the slogan has been helpful in bringing the district forward, “because there is always some positive in everything.”
Based on the Report Card released from the Mississippi Department of Education, finding the positives should be easy for school staff, parents and the community, Hood said.
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