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Let’s mobilize to improve our schools

I know my recent actions and decisions have caught the eyes, minds and ears of the community. I applaud the effort to bring more attention to the issues in the Natchez-Adams School District. Even more, I applaud those who signed the petition and/or are currently protesting for wanting and demanding the district to be better. I agree that something needs to change in the Natchez-Adams School District. For at least the last two years, the district has been screaming for community support.

About a month ago, I met with members of the NAACP and I encouraged those in attendance to ask for my resignation if they felt as though what I was doing was detrimental to children. One of the members in attendance let me know that she would take me up on that offer and indeed she did. I applaud her for encouraging recent events of protest to occur. Let me add one more challenge. With or without me as the superintendent, now that the community outcry has galvanized, let’s find a way to capitalize on this energy. Sure the quick response is that I can resign and the board can step down; then what?

Let me thank the concerned citizens for providing a clear platform on the issues in which the concerned citizens have developed

I have not one objection to the outlined concerns. I think all listed issues are legitimate concerns. Each warrants some attention to ensure the district’s growth and improvements are not stagnated. Now that all of the negatives have been posted in your letter, I will take a moment to share some of the positive things that are occurring in NASD:

• At the end of 2011-2012 school year, student performing at proficient and above was at 40 percent. At the end of the 2012-2013 school year, students performing at proficient and above was at 43 percent. Benchmark data predicts 47 percent of students will be proficient and above at the end of this year. Two years ago, the graduation rate was 53 percent. In two years, the graduation rate increased to over 70 percent.

• Two years ago, the dropout rate was 40 percent. In one year, the dropout rate declined to 27 percent.

• Two years ago, 67 percent of schools were failing. Benchmarked data from this year indicate 67 percent (possibly 80 percent) of the schools are predicted to be passing when scores return this summer. Development and implementation of a magnet school: Benchmarked data from the magnet school show evidence that all students can perform well regardless of academic and disciplinary background when provided with high expectations.

• More than 15 dropouts returned to school and received a diploma. In terms of dollars, that could have been $6.6 million missed earnings over a lifetime had all 15 students chose not to return. (Figure based on data from U.S. Census Bureau)

• Advanced placement course offerings have increased. Advanced placement enrollment has more than doubled. Enrollment will grow even more for the 2014-2015 school year.

• One Community, One Book has developed a concerted effort of all schools (public and private) in Adams County to promote literacy.

• NASD received recognition from the State Auditor’s Office for exemplary practices.

• External financial audits show that NASD is in compliance with all laws and policies that govern use of public funds.

• An accreditation audit of the District from MDE showed no major findings for corrective actions. Districts similar in demographics, performance and size to Natchez have findings that were significantly higher. NASD has completed corrective actions and documentation to come into 100 percent compliance.

• A budget was balanced for the first time in over 5 years without increasing millage and borrowing from 16 Section funds. Over a million dollars in cuts were identified and executed during the 2014 budgeting process.

• Lunch charges of over $100K dating from 2004 to 2012 have been collected and reduced to about $50K. Collection is ongoing.

• Central Office administrative positions were combined to save the District over $65K.

• The fund balance for the District increased to over 9 percent—an increase from 7 percent the prior year.

• Implementation of a restructured alternative school provided an opportunity for over 30 students to graduate. Without the program, these students would have exited high school without a diploma. Testimonies from students last Thursday night were evidence for all in attendance that the new alternative program is working for our students.

• Extended School Day (night school) provides an opportunity for students to either catch up or get ahead by earning credits from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Over 30 students took advantage of the program.

• Summer school was re-introduced to Natchez High School. Summer School supplemented Extended School Year. Over 50 students took advantage of summer school. Students attend summer school to earn an extra credit to get ahead.

• Spelling Bee was re-introduced to the District after an absence of 6 years.

• More support and resources were/are allocated and provided to the Arts program.

• An active District Strategic Plan has been developed and implemented. The Plan will be revisited throughout each academic year to measure whether the schools and District are meeting its goals. Input on the plan was provided from all community stakeholders.

• An assertive Discipline Plan was developed for NASD. Input from all community stakeholders was provided.