Marshall County School District superintendent Jerry Moore said he made lots of changes, particularly in personnel, the first year in office. He said he sees more changes going in the next year, but not as dramatic as the first year of his term.
Moore spoke to an audience of over 128 at a second quarterly luncheon meeting of the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce held at Victory Church in Byhalia. Moore said he worked in numerous capacities within the school district before his election to the superintendent’s spot and knew what the problems of the district were going into office.
The county has 10 schools and they are managed as K-fifth grade, sixth-eighth, and ninth-12th grade. Fifty-one percent of the student population of 3,500 are African American, 44 percent caucasian and 5 percent hispanic. Eighty-one percent of the population receives free lunch, 15 percent pays a reduced rate and 4 percent are full pay.
The district has 315 employees and 212 teachers. Ninety-eight percent of teachers are rated as highly qualified in core areas, 14 percent are certified by the National teachers board and 43 percent have either an AA or AAA certificate.
The state of Mississippi pays 63 percent of the district budget, Marshall County taxpayers fund 17 percent, while the federal government pays 20 percent of the cost of operations.
In a discussion of new state legislation requiring students to be on reading level by the third grade and about Pre-K funding, Moore said the district has a literacy problem.
In many cases children are not being read to at home, he said.
In order to combat illiteracy, board of trustee members and the community have stepped up to the plate and initiated a book drive in Byhalia. Two classrooms are being outfitted as one room to create a library to house about $20,000 in books that will be coming in to the elementary school. School board trustees Terry Cook and Janice Wagg were in attendance and are supporting the library project. Wagg is heading up the book drive in Byhalia. Books may be dropped off at Byhalia city hall for the school library.
The graduation rate for the district has improved slightly from 62.6 percent to 66 percent since Moore took office. The true rate was underreported, Moore said. The graduation rate nationwide is 74 percent, he said. His goal is to bring the graduation rate up to 80 percent.
Moore said a field house will be built at the Byhalia High School to support sports programs.
He wants to increase enrollment in Avanced Placement coures and to increase student achievement.
The district is also implementing safety measures including buzz-in doors and escorts for visitors.
Moore said he is unapologetic for the inconvenience, because school safety is important for students to be able to learn, and more important than academic achievement itself.
He said students know how difficult it is to get an education and that he wants them to be proud of their educational experience after they graduate.
He feels good about progress so far.
“I feel good so far about where we are since last year at this time,” he said. “It is important what we are doing here.”
Moore said the economy is the big driver for education in North Mississippi and that the school district must meet the needs of a growing workforce.
“We are all in this boat together,” he said. “We have good kids and we need to support them as much as we can.”
Other BACC activities
Along with the Chamber groups, the community is supporting the schools. The Byhalia Lions Club, the Byhalia Area Arts Council, the Byhalia Sports Association and Boy and Girl Scouts are groups that work with the schools to support the student enrichment.
Fifteen Byhalia Middle School students participate in the Bluejays Junior Gardeners sponsored by the Byhalia Garden Club and the school. Eight students from Byhalia Elementary and Middle schools won at the district level in the Smokey Bear and poetry contest sponsored by the Garden Clubs of Mississippi.
Former Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce president Leah Grant was presented a certificate of appreciation for her service to BACC as past president for the past two years..
BACC executive director Sarah Sawyer thanked Victory Church, located on Vinson Road in Byhalia, for the use of their facility for the luncheon. The church is non-denominational.
Barbara Phillips and her cooking team of ABRA Auto Body & Glass, with offices in Olive Branch and Horn Lake, and Terry Cook, with TLC Logistics in Byhalia, sponsored the meeting.
New directors on the Chamber board include Angie Cannon (Wildflower Honey & Body Worker) and Linda Turner (Byhalia Family Health Clinic/Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition). Sawyer thanked the membership for their investment and recognized Chamber Champion Sponsors and new members.
The Business of the Month award was presented to Costco, located at Hacks Cross Road in Memphis, Tenn., for their customer service and support of the Chamber, schools and community.
The Sustaining Member of the Month was drawn by Health 1st Family Medical. Trustmark National Bank in Southaven was drawn for recognition as Member of the Day. This award is presented only to members in attendance at the luncheon.
Montie Hamblen asked for volunteers to help with production for the upcoming Sounds of Summer Music and Arts Festival, the golf tournament and the Chamber Celebration.
This is the 25th anniversary year of BACC. Expect a big celebration later in the year.
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