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Magnet program: Learning from the predecessors

NATCHEZ — School district officials hope to take a page from the books of successful magnet programs in the region to help with the implementation of a proposed magnet program at the former Robert Lewis Middle School.

Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill and other district officials will visit magnet programs in Columbus and Alpine, Ala., today and Tuesday to observe the programs and curriculum used within those schools.

The goal of the trip, Hill said, is to learn from those schools’ successes and begin crafting a more concrete plan to open a magnet program with a focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics by the 2013-2014 school year.

“I actually visited the school in Alabama when I was at the Tupelo School District, and that school has proven to be a successful school that I think we can learn a lot from,” Hill said. “I wanted to take a group of people from our district so they could see what I’ve already seen and hopefully get some more insight on what we could potentially have here in town with our program.”

Part of the NASD Board of Trustees vote last year to reorganize the entire district included closing RLMS for the 2012-2013 school year for renovations.

The trip to visit other schools was part of a plan the board entrusted to Hill when he was hired in July.

That plan includes everything from advertising for bids for contractors for repairs to creating a steering committee to seek input on the program’s future.

Hill said he hopes to bring that plan before the board in February or March to get final approval to move full speed ahead with the magnet program implementation.

The information they gather on the trip this week, Hill said, will be essential to that plan.

“These schools have a similar setup and demographics as Natchez, so that’s going to be helpful in seeing what works and what doesn’t work for them,” Hill said. “The schools are very intense and in-depth about what they show you, so we’re hoping to bring back a lot of good, useful information.”

The group will travel to Winterboro High School in Alpine, Ala., and six different schools within the Columbus Municipal School District in Columbus before returning Tuesday night.

The estimated cost of the trip for two vehicles logging 840 miles each, 11 hotel rooms for two nights and food for three days for each person is $4,838.

The board, at a specially called meeting Jan. 24, approved that amount. An amendment was added stating any school board members, in addition to Thelma Newsome — who was already scheduled to travel with the group — could also attend.