Thursday, August 16, 2012
Superintendent addresses changes
By SUE WATSON
Jerry Moore, superintendent of Marshall County Schools, recently updated the Holly Springs Rotary Club on changes in the district to help the schools and students perform at maximum potential.
Some changes school districts will face include beginning classes later in the summer and dropping the No Child Left Behind program implemented in the United States under former president George W. Bush.
The Mississippi Legislature has passed statutes that change the school year calendar. In two years, the public schools will not begin until after the third Monday in August, he said. This will mean that school holiday schedules may have to be adjusted to get students out of school earlier. Currently, school starts in early August for public schools and typically students are out of school in May. If the Legislature does not pare down the required days school must meet, schools will have to go to school until the middle of June or cut out some holidays, Moore said.
“It’s a significant thing locally,” he said.
School systems could not keep up with the administrative boondoggle of tracking children in the No Child Left Behind Act. Mississippi has been granted a waiver along with about half the states in the nation from the most challenging aspects of the 2002 Act.
Moore said Mississippi will join a consortium of about 42 other states to develop a Common Core Curriculum. That means the instruments used to measure achievement will change once again.
“But we will be able to compare our schools to those in other states, since we will have the same assessments,” Moore said.
Under recent operations, the district spends about 80 percent of its revenue on instruction. Ninety-seven percent of teachers are rated as highly qualified, one of the goals of No Child Left Behind. The graduation rate was at 66 percent but it went up to 72 percent in year 2012.
Moore said the low graduation rate was mostly an artifact due to paperwork that was not followed, and once the school did a better job of tracking students, the graduation rate increased.
Moore said it likely will take several years to be clear on what the actual graduation rate is and that it will likely fluctuate a couple of years.
Today 81 percent of students get free lunches, down from 89 percent. The school district serves about 3,450 students and has 315 employees.
Moore said he is working to make the curriculum less broad but more in depth for mastery of subjects. A goal is to help children decide on a career before they enter high school.
The district worked over the summer making repairs to school buildings. Safe schools, academic growth and extracurricular activities are the three keys to successful schools, he said.
The new football programs at H.W. Byers and Potts Camp High Schools will provide activities to help students enjoy school more. A new sportsplex is finished at Potts Camp, but Byhalia needs a band hall and practice fields, and H.W. Byers needs a sportsplex, he said.
Enrollment at H.W. Byers is on the upswing.
“It is the school to watch,” Moore said. “Lots of people are moving into that area.”
Moore said economic development and a successful economy hinges on the educational system being successful. But school districts have to invest in the system if learning is to improve.
Test scores this year are up, but they are not up enough to meet the growth requirements to move up another level, Moore said.
He has moved some principals to different schools, realigned other staff and hired some new people in leadership positions.
“We have a lot of academic work to do,” he said. “With the reconfiguration and staff changes, next year’s test results should dramatically rise. I’m excited about my staff in place. These changes should make a big difference academically.
“We are working day and night to help Marshall County grow. Children are a part of the economic team. Success will come if the positives outweigh the negatives.”
Moore called for input from the entire community and suggestions that could help improve education.
He said visitors are welcome at the schools at any time.
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