Citizens speak out in support of Hale
The majority of the public comments at the May 14 meeting of the Marshall County School Board were directed toward board members, asking them to retain Dr. Lela Hale as superintendent of education and direct funds designated for a superintendent search to other areas of need in the school system.
However, those funds have already been committed to Mississippi School Boards Association, which is conducting the search.
Gail Moreland said she wanted to continue her thoughts as published in her Letter to the Editor in The South Reporter on April 24. She, along with others, want an excellent school district in Marshall County. She said she had worked in the district since 2004 under three different superintendents.
“Marshall County is an economically challenged school district,” Moreland said. “The rest of the world is moving ahead, but are we?”
Teacher pay and the teacher workload are reasons teachers don’t stay, she said. A retention plan for new teachers is needed, Moreland added.
In a recent article in The South Reporter about the superintendent search, several qualities needed in a superintendent were given. She believes Dr. Hale possesses these qualities.
“Have we given the current superintendent a fair chance?”
She asked that the board consider the needed qualifications and do what is best for the county. She had recently witnessed the superintendent and one of her coworkers making a presentation to the board of supervisors. She said Dr. Hale had done an excellent job making the presentation.
“We have in place a person dedicated to the job who is doing what is best for Marshall County Schools,” Moreland said. “Marshall County is a very large county and each area is different. A superintendent would not be found who would make everyone happy.”
Minister Ibraham Al-tariq thanked everyone who took the time to vote for the bond. He asked when repairs would be started. Turner replied it would take months. The bonds would have to be advertised and sold before monies were available. It is expected that the bonds could be sold by August. Dr. Hale said any available funds could be used to begin repairs and then be reimbursed when the bonds were sold.
Pam Boren, a teacher from Mary Reid, said the board was looking somewhere for what the county has right here. She said Dr. Hale cares about the schools and what happens here. People from here always care more than those brought in from outside, Boren emphasized.
Billie Mills, a retired teacher, said she had known Dr. Hale all her life and knew she was exemplary as an educator and Christian leader. She didn’t feel Dr. Hale had been given enough time to do what needs to be done.
Lynn McCallum, a retired teacher, said he had lived in Marshall County all his life.
“We are losing a lot of our freedoms and we don’t like it,” McCallum said. “We were fortunate enough to elect Lela Hale. If we appoint someone, we won’t know what we are getting. She has the best interest of children in mind. Without that we won’t have what we need. We have the right leader. The things the teachers have to do today are difficult.”
He believed $10,000 could be spent for a better cause than looking for a new superintendent when the district had a “great one” now.
Renee Russom said she agreed with all the comments about Dr. Hale. She believes Dr. Hale cares for the children, teachers and assistants who work in the district.
Tonya Hogan asked that the board consider a 4K program. She believes early education intervention would help boost test scores.
Shonee Garrison, from Galena, presented her School Improvement Report. To address the areas of challenge, the science consultant worked with students in the new lab. Students had the second highest skill score and second highest improvement in kindergarten. Pass rate has gone from 74 percent to 94 percent in 2018. It is possible the third grade pass rate would be at 100 percent this year. The fifth grade cursive writing assessment graded by teachers was satisfactory.
Monies in the improvement fund would be spent toward the end of summer. Snacks would be provided for those attending summer classes.
The Targeted School Improvement report for Byhalia Elementary School was given by Elizabeth Towle, who had no new data to offer. She reported that assessments had been given this year but scores had not come back. She stressed that the students worked very hard on mastering skills used during the assessment.
Dr. Hale shared the following information while giving the Superintendent’s Report.
The access controls have been installed at all school sites. Secretaries can identify visitors before allowing them in the building.
The 2019 Mississippi Diesel School Bus Replacement Program from the MS Department of Environmental Quality awarded a total of $30,000 for two older buses to be taken off the line and be replaced with new ones.
The Pickering Firm Inc. had completed its annual asbestos assessment for the district. Additionally, the firm had completed a survey and assessment on the main building at H.W. Byers Elementary School and the kitchen at Byhalia Elementary-Middle School.
All bus drivers were to have their buses inspected by the principal at their respective schools between May 22-27 using a checklist that includes having all windows up, floors swept and washed, and all trash or clothing removed. Drivers would need to notify the bus shop for needed service or repairs.
Landon Pollard and Dr. Hale had met with CTE Director Fred Holland to discuss plans for CTE courses. Dr. Hale attended the end-of-the year celebration at the Chulahoma Education Center for Galena’s students who have been tutored this year. The students and community enjoyed the food, music, and seeing the traditional dress at Byhalia High School’s sponsored Cinco de Mayo celebration on May 6.
Students have been rewarded for their hard work on state testing and the English Language Learner test by having out-of-uniform passes, field days, pizza parties, and field trips. Incentives for ACT improved scores have included boot camps with specialized teachers. Juniors at Byers had a high attendance on the makeup day due to the boot camps.
Seniors completed the ACT WorkKeys, a National Career Readiness Certificate, which tests understanding math to solve work problems, understanding workplace documents, and finding and applying graphical information for graphic literacy. Compared to last year’s scores, more students scored silver, gold, and platinum.
Making high-quality early childhood education accessible to all children is one of the primary goals of the Mississippi State Board of Education Strategic Plan. The desired goal is for kindergarteners to enter school with a 530 or above on the MKAS, the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and exit with a 681. Based on extensive research, 85 percent of students who begin at 530 or above will be proficient by the end of third grade. The primary purpose of the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment is to improve the quality of classroom instruction and other services provided to students from birth to third grade. According to our scores, no school has scores of 530 when entering; however, two schools, Galena and Mary Reid exceed the 681 when exiting Kindergarten. Work still needs to be done in having students prepared before they enter Kindergarten. Each elementary school in the district would host a half-day Pre-K Academy, Monday through Thursday for the month of June.
Third graders who do not pass the second state assessment will be tutored accordingly. Although these students will be retested, some with required documentation will qualify for the good cause exemption.
Community meetings were held giving information and answering questions for the $8.985 million bond. A community stakeholder and strategic planning luncheon was sponsored by Jim Young Associates. Justin Hall, executive director of the Industrial Development Authority, gave updates on the current and upcoming industries. He complemented the partnership between IDA and the school district for administering the ACT WorkKeys to provide an industry-certified workforce from our schools.
The district received a letter from a couple in Olive Branch who complimented students from Potts Camp School who were on a field trip for letting them go first in the line at a local restaurant.
The next school board meeting will be June 11 at Galena at 5:30 p.m.