Grant helps fund school officers
The Marshall County School District received notification in December 2018 that its application for four school resource officers has been awarded.
The grant will pay $10,000 toward each of the four officers’ salaries, or $40,000.
“It takes a special person to be a good school resource officer,” said sheriff Kenny Dickerson, who will supervise the officers. “School safety is a high priority with me and has been. I will do all I can to assure the school staff and students are protected the very best way that we can.”
Two SROs will be paid out of the school district’s budget and two out of the sheriff’s budget. The positions are partly funded by the grant which will pay about a fourth of the cost of the four SROs, he said.
All four officers will be certified and experienced, the sheriff said.
Superintendent of education Lela Hale thanked the board of supervisors and Sheriff Dickerson for their support in putting the grant together on very short notice (three days).
Hale hand-delivered the application to Jackson.
She said, Monday at the board of supervisors meeting, that the funds for each two SROs (the two paid by the school district, and the two paid by the county) will be kept in separate accounts. The school district has agreed to pay for hand radio sets, vests, computers and travel for all four SROs.
Dickerson said SROs are chosen carefully because the rules for law enforcement working with juveniles is different from those working with adults. And SROs are selected based upon their demeanor around children and their stability, he said. They serve as role models for the students.
The grants are awarded on the basis of need, threat assessment, and plan of action.
Forty-three districts received awards covering 339 schools served to fund 177 officer positions in the state’s MCOPs program. The total award for all grants was $1.77 million.
By comparison, DeSoto County School District was awarded funding for 15 positions, Pontotoc County School District five, and Lee County School District seven.
ACT and Advanced Placement courses
Hale said the state funds the cost of each student’s ACT test in his or her junior year and the school’s overall ACT rating comes from that test.
But, students are encouraged to retake the test to improve their scores. Some raise their ACT score by two points.
The Holly Springs Rotary Club also provides a two-day training for high school juniors and seniors, which Hale credited with helping students prepare for the test and make better scores.
Dual enrollment with
Marshall County juniors and seniors are enrolled in 123 college courses for the fall and spring semesters. They get credit at both the high school and college levels. Hale said these courses are provided free to high school students and relieve their families from the costs of tuition on these courses.
“Having students in dual enrollment courses helps us in more ways than one on the accountability model,” Hale said. “I’d like to see each of our students who plan to go to college to, at least, have a good semester’s-worth of courses completed during high school to give them an extra boost toward getting a degree. Even if the students are going for a one- or two-year technical degree, the basic coursework can count toward getting the associate degree at NWCC.”
Many of the technical programs offer quality, high-paying jobs after completion, Hale said.
“If students want to go further for a four-year degree, the courses will assist them in meeting that goal, as well,” she said. “I want them to be prepared for the workforce as well as for college. This is a prime time for our students to seek a career either in jobs in many industries that have come into our county, or by attaining a college or technical degree.”
Nine students at H.W. Byers School are taking 27 dual enrollment courses. Byhalia and Potts Camp also have a number of students taking dual enrollment courses.
Supervisors asked Hale if students had books.
Hale said Galena and Mary Reid schools have a book for every child. And there are specified dollars to get technology in the classrooms.
Supervisor Keith Taylor asked if the county could do anything to help get technology and computers in classrooms. It helps when they go to college, he said.
Hale said lots of classrooms have Google Classroom, a free web service developed by Google for schools that want to simplify creating, distributing and grading assignments without the use of paper products. The main purpose of Google Classroom is to make it easy to share files between teachers and students, including homework assignments.
Taylor also asked for more security at sporting events.
Hale said the district is still short on buses in good condition.
“It is because buses were not replaced. We have a lot of breakdowns and repairs,” Hale said.
Supervisor George Zinn asked the latest model of school bus in the district. Hale said a 2015 is probably the newest and the district has a 2014 model.
“Most school districts replace their buses after 10 years,” Hale said. “We are looking at lease/purchase to replace about 18 buses that are over 20 years old. We are buying other people’s problems when we buy used ones.”
The district is paying off the bond on the Byhalia High School building and will put that bond money toward other needs such as roofs, heat and air systems, and the like.
The district needs more classroom space - at Byhalia Middle School and at vo-tech in Potts Camp, Hale said. And there is a problem with part of the foundation sinking at Byhalia High School. The district is advised to repair the leaks on the roof first, then take on the problems with the foundation.
Hale suggested the district could come up with from $8 million to $8.5 million without raising taxes, but the voters would have to pass a referendum, she said.
Supervisor Charles Terry asked whether enrollment is up or down.
Hale said, “Up by about 60 in Byhalia Middle over last year.” Potts Camp also has an increase.
Terry asked whether the extra classrooms were needed due to a recent enrollment leap or whether it is due to larger class numbers progressing through the grades.
“Has the overall county increased in enrollment?” Terry asked. “Are people leaving the county due to lack of educational opportunities?”
Hale didn’t have the answers at her fingertips. But she said the district needs more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) classrooms. These classes entice students to want to come to school, the superintendent said.
“We have students and teachers of a new age, a different age from us - social media,” Hale said.
STEM courses are more rigorous disciplines and help develop critical thinking skills, she said.
“But we have to have the classroom space to put STEM in all schools,” she said.