Davis making name for himself in district
Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 11, 1999
For some people in the Natchez-Adams School District, Dr. Carl Davis may still just be a face with a name. But he wants to be more than that.
In his past year as superintendent, Davis says he has committed himself to supporting the staff and the district.
Most mornings during the week, he is out visiting schools and making himself visible.
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&uot;I got to get out in the schools and see the buildings,&uot; Davis said. &uot;I got to see for myself what’s going on.&uot;
If a teacher has concerns or needs something for a class — like a new computer – Davis said he can try to care of it.
Davis usually visits schools from 8 to 10 a.m. each day, trying to get to each school three times a week. He then does his office work in the afternoons.
&uot;(A superintendent) should be visible, be in the classrooms, (should) support the teachers and the parents and be approachable,&uot; Davis said.
Davis came to the district in January, after leaving a position as the director of curriculum and instruction for Hattiesburg Public Schools. He replaced former superintendent Dr. Willie Hoskin, who was ousted in a controversial school board decision in January 1998.
Since Davis took office, the school district has made headlines with a number of decisions designed to improve academics and school safety. Davis supported the city’s efforts to establish a daytime curfew and has enforced a zero-tolerance policy toward school violence. Now he is advocating a plan to reopen Braden School, a school that was closed after a 1989 desegregation court order.
The plan has created some controversy because in order to be enacted, the plaintiffs in the original desegregation lawsuit must agree to it. So far the school board and the plaintiffs have not come to a decision or agreement.
As he does on most days, Davis visited three Natchez schools last Tuesday.
Staff at the Central Alternative School on Lynda Lee Drive told him that in-school suspensions are down and that they have added art and music to their curriculum.
&uot;That was one of our goals — to bring more activities down for the kids,&uot; Davis said.
Central — a school for academically or behaviorally challenged students — has a number of success stories.
Tasha Wiley, a JTPA work-study student, told Davis she had passed her GED and will take her ACT this weekend.
&uot;I feel that the the JTPA is a very positive program,&uot; Wiley said. &uot;It basically gives you a good outlook on the future. It gives you work experience.&uot;
And six students in Central’s Fast-Track program will soon go back to the regular classroom.
Fast-Track helps students who have been retained several grades to master the academic skills that are holding them behind. The goal is to help these students catch back up with their age-appropriate class.
&uot;It’s working. It’s really working,&uot; said Gloria Warren, a Fast-Track teacher.
Davis said he wishes the community could see the positive things taking place at Central.
&uot;They don’t see kids turning themselves around,&uot; Davis said. &uot;People don’t know and that’s what discouraging.&uot;
Davis also visited Natchez Middle School and Frazier Primary School Tuesday.
Areas for improvement
Davis can quickly name the areas he thinks the district needs to improve.
When he moved to Natchez, one of his priorities was listening to the community and district employees.
&uot;The main thing in (my) mind was to hear what the people were saying was the need of the district,&uot; Davis said.
He soon learned the district needed to improve its curriculum guide and design it to flow from one grade to the next.
This is to make sure &uot;every child was given the same instruction,&uot; he said.
Then the district needed to make sure teachers are properly trained and teaching according to that curriculum guide, he said.
The district and the community also need to improve communication, Davis said.
&uot;Many times the wrong information gets out the community,&uot; he said.
District policies must all be up-to-date and used consistently, he added.
Davis said he wants to be held accountable for the district.
He will in turn do the same for the other employees.
&uot;I’m going to hold everybody else accountable,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s the way to improve things for the kids.&uot;
In a way, Davis is the school district’s evangelist, always reminding his co-workers what to strive for and suggesting ways to help students.
&uot;You have to do that,&uot;&160;Davis said. &uot;You have let people know what’s on your mind and what you believe in.&uot;
During this school year, about 30 students were arrested for fighting on campus or other infractions.
The district wanted to send a strong message to students and grab their attention, Davis said.
&uot;They know at that point that safety is No. 1,&uot; Davis said. &uot;You can’t teach them anything if they don’t feel safe.&uot;
Davis refers to the policy as zero-tolerance tempered with common sense.
It’s important to be fair and consistent with discipline and to not play favorites, he said.
The district only calls the police in severe situations or when student and staff safety is jeopardized.
But, Davis said, &uot;the law says if it’s a violent act, a violent act must be reported.&uot;
The district is making an effort to consistently report these events, Davis said.
A school board proposal to reduce the size of crowded elementary schools has generated much discussion lately in the community.
The plan, which requires federal court approval, includes transferring Braden School — the district’s central office — into a K-6 elementary school. It also includes turning West Primary, Frazier Primary, Morgantown Elementary and McLaurin Elementary into K-6 schools.
District officials say the plan is better for students because it could reduce discipline problems and help them learn.
&uot;Many of the problems we are faced with right now, we would not be having if we had smaller schools,&uot; Davis said.
The district is asking all parents who support the plan to express their views.
&uot;My question is why aren’t they saying anything?&uot; Davis said. &uot;Our kids got to be first.&uot;
Davis said his first year in Natchez has been challenging but rewarding. He is already seeing improvements.
&uot;I see the commitment that our staff has and our parents (have) and the enthusiasm that our kids are showing,&uot;&160;he said.
Despite rumors otherwise, Davis said he likes his job and has not taken another position elsewhere.
&uot;I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m here to stay,&uot;&160;he said.