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Petition triggers meetings to address NASD concerns

NATCHEZ Goals from community members seeking improvements in Natchez-Adams schools spurred district leaders to plan public meetings to address the concerns.

Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill said the district would host a meeting at 6 p.m. Monday in the Natchez High School Auditorium to begin addressing the goals.

A group of residents who publicly voiced their concerns through circulating a “vote of no confidence petition” created nine goals they hoped prompted change in the district.

Natchez resident Kati Woodard submitted the petition last month detailing the goals which included improving academic achievement, ensuring qualified district-level and school-level leadership and providing safe and orderly schools, among others.

Hill said he plans to organize meetings on each or several of the group’s goals to help outline the district’s plans to address them.

“I think (Woodard) and the group made some very, very clear points of things that the schools can do to help improve the community,” Hill said. “The thing I appreciate out of all the issues that have been shared recently is this type of list of things people want addressed, because that’s something I can work with.

“There are some valid points made, and those are things we as a district are addressing or can address and give some attention to the things that concern the community.”

The meeting Monday, Hill said, would address the fifth item on the list — economic development.

Hill said he believed the direct correlation the district has with economic development in the area is the graduation rate.

“As long as we’re graduating capable students and ensuring they will go to work or go to college, I think that’s all we can do,” Hill said. “The more students we get across the stage, that’s how we’re impacting economic development.”

Hill said the district would put in place two strategies — student choices and wraparound services — in order to ensure students remain in school until they receive a high school diploma in four years or less.

Student choices, Hill said, is simply ensuring students are learning what they need to know for whichever path they want to choose after high school — college or a career.

Hill said the restructuring plan at the middle and high schools, which will go into effect for the 2014-15 school year, will allow students to chose which track they want to pursue.

Wraparound services, Hill said, is a care management process that will focus on students with high emotional and disciplinary needs.

The services in Natchez schools, for example, would include a network of individuals that would commit to seeing students enter the Natchez Freshman Academy and, within four years, walk across the stage at Natchez High School with a diploma.

In addition, Hill said another initiative titled Goal ’17 should add to the benefits of the wraparound services.

The initiative is a form of dropout prevention that seeks to eliminate the dropout rate for students that enrolled in the ninth grade for the first time during the 2013-14 school year.

Hill said the aim of the initiative is to get local businesses, academic and service organizations to work with students to stay in school and graduate.

While the district’s dropout rate has decreased to approximately 27 percent, Hill said he hopes the initiative would push that rate even further.

“Any one student that does not graduate has a negative impact on economic development,” Hill said. “I just don’t know of any other way we can impact economic development other than ensuring our students graduate.”

Hill said he hopes to see members from various groups in the community in attendance at the meeting Monday.