Change in leadership for schools
Outgoing superintendent of education Dr. Lela Hale talked about the district’s progress and expressed thanks as part of the December 10 meeting of the Mashall County School Board.
Hale’s elected term will end December 31. She has served three years, chosen by the voters in a special election in November 2016.
With the adoption of SB 2438 into law in 2016, superintendents in school districts across the state, including Marshall County, must be appointed by their school boards rather than elected. The bill took effect January 1, 2019, but superintendents elected before then were allowed to serve out their terms.
The county school board last week announced the hiring of a new superintendent of education, Roy Lawson, of Iuka.
“I want to let the voters of Marshall County know how much I have enjoyed the progress, challenges, and successes I have been afforded as superintendent of the Marshall County School District,” Hale said. “I thank God for allowing me the privilege to serve my county, our schools, and the communities in such an impactful way. Putting students first has been my goal, next to making education equitable for all students. Although I realize I cannot make everyone happy, I feel that I have made decisions to provide a better quality of life for all students.
“Our students now have opportunities to earn college credit in our high schools. Our initiative encourages our students to take the ACT before their junior year. We have safety nets for students who may not pass all of the state subject-area tests that allow alternatives for students to receive a diploma.
“As a result, our graduation rates for the high schools are expected to be in the 80s or 90s in next year’s accountability.
“Putting safety first, the school board and I have added 30 buses to get our children safely to school. Having the school resource officers, the office video entry cameras, keyless entry accesses, and new fencing has allowed for a safer learning environment.
“I am proud of the voters for passing the School Bond initiative with over 88 percent of the voters voting for the bond. Our district now has some funding to fix the roofs, renovate our worn buildings, and add additional classrooms. Two of the issues, buses and roofs, now have a way of being corrected without breaking the district.
“I am ready to pass the baton to the next superintendent. I wish him or her and our students the best. I especially hope we make it to the B accountability rating, if not next year, at least by the next. We have the best administrators who are competent to take our district to the next level. Thank you for allowing me to serve our students, our county, and our communities.”
A retirement party for Hale, celebrating her 37 and a half years in education, will be held Thursday, Dec. 19, from 2 to 5:30 p.m. at The Apothecary in downtown Holly Springs.
During the recent school board meeting, the financial report, as explained by financial business manager Emma Woods, was approved after questions were discussed and answered.
Principal Elizabeth Towles from Byhalia Middle School said there was no new academic data to present. The students were busy taking the Case 21 Assessments. Additional funds are forthcoming from the state since the school is in the second year of being a targeted improvement school. A plan is being formed to use the money productively to hire an additional certified person to work with the students for the following year. Hopefully, this person would be an interventionist.
Principal Angelique Archie from Galena said the school was also in the middle of Case 21 Assessments and she would have updated data for the next meeting. The first semester has been focused on observation and teacher input. The staff would be focusing on planning and the individual needs of the students. The school is using Mastery Connect, a software program that allows teachers to create and upload assessments and ties into the standards to let teachers know who has mastered the standards. Teachers have requested more professional learning opportunities.
Hale presented her report. She, too, said students continued to take the Case 21 Assessments that allow teachers to group and re-group data to fill in the gaps and target deficiencies. In-service sessions presented to assistant principals and instructional facilitators December 4 included the sharing of apps, instructional strategies, forms and how to effectively use programs to increase student achievement. Since then, administrators had been observed using materials presented during these sessions.
“Working together and sharing effective practices provide equity across the district – one of my goals for the last three years,” Hale said.
On December 19, the district will know if the grant was approved for school resource officers for the upcoming year. Currently the district has an officer on each of the four major campuses. Although the district had a grant for four officers last year, only three were utilized, which may mean a portion of the grant from last year may have to be repaid.
Several schools were having holiday programs. Board members were encouraged to contact school administrators to obtain information on when the programs were and attend when possible.
Attorney Lori Shaw said she needed to present matters pertaining to possible litigation. She said Hale had been working hard the last several weeks to resolve these issues.
Consent agenda items included approval of the docket of claims, accounts payable and activity funds, fund-raisers, gravel requests, declaration of Teach for America as a sole-source vendor for professional development services, permission for teachers to participate in an approved survey, approval of teachers for home-bound students, payment of tutors, approval to hire non-certified personnel, resignations, and approval to employ certified personnel.
Bids and quotes for replacement of upper windows in Potts Camp gym, sanding, painting and finishing court lines to H.W. Byers gym, and purchase of 31 PCs for Byhalia High School, paid for with federal funds, were approved.
Water well reports for Galena and Byers were given. Policy revisions were adopted. A proposed handbook for 2019-2020 Marshall County Gifted classes was reviewed.
A resolution was adopted to ask for supervisors’ assistance with ambulance service at H.W. Byers and other outlying schools.
The county school board went into executive session to discuss litigation and personnel issues.