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School officials report findings from magnet schools trip

NATCHEZ — Natchez-Adams School District officials said Thursday they know best when it comes to choosing the curriculum for a proposed magnet program — even if students might not initially agree.

School district officials traveled Monday and Tuesday to Columbus, Alpine, Ala., and Birmingham, Ala., to visit magnet and fine arts programs in hopes of bringing back useful information to put toward the district’s own magnet program, which would be housed at the former Robert Lewis Middle School.

Morgantown Middle School assistant principal Zandra McDonald, who is also a member of the magnet school steering committee, presented the NASD board of trustees with a report Thursday containing information about the trip and overall plans for the program.

Included in the presentation were the results of a survey given to students at Morgantown Middle School and Natchez High School asking which career field they were interested in learning about and possibly pursing after school.

In that survey was a science, technology, engineering and mathematics category.

District officials had planned on using STEM curriculum and programs in the proposed magnet program.

Other choices included, health science, marketing, human services and manufacturing, among others.

But the career field that scored the highest among 728 students at the middle school and 664 students at the high school was hospitality and tourism.

The results were surprising to board and audience members as some began to try to reason with the survey’s findings.

“That’s where they know all the jobs are here in this area,” board member David Troutman said. “Of course that’s what they chose.”

Middle school students ranked STEM 12th out of 16 categories on the survey and high school students ranked it 14th.

Not getting the response he hoped for on the survey was something superintendent Frederick Hill said initially took him aback.

“When I saw those results, I kind of had to stop and think if we were heading in the right direction with the plans for this program,” Hill said. “But the more I thought about it and discussed it with other district officials, we all kind of realized that we need to be exposing these kids to new and important things.”

Board member Tim Blaylock agreed with other board members that they supported any student who wanted to pursue fields in the hospitality and tourism industry, but that offering other options couldn’t hurt.

“It’s good they realize those industries are here,” Blaylock said. “But if we expose them to rocket science maybe we can bring those industries here too.”

Other information reported in the presentation included summaries of the curriculum and programs taught at each of the schools district officials visited.

The group traveled to Winterboro High School in Alpine, Ala., six different schools within the Columbus Municipal School District in Columbus and the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham.

Hill said the information gathered on the trip, as well as from the steering committee, would be compiled into a final plan to be presented before the board at its March meeting.

If approved by the board, the magnet program would open for the 2013-2014 school year.