Schools have earnest plea for assistance

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 22, 2001

Dr. Carl Davis stood before the group of business leaders and asked for one thing.

&uot;We need your help,&uot; said the superintendent of the Natchez-Adams School District. &uot;We’re making progress, but we can’t do it without you.&uot;

Progress, said Davis, involves a systematic restructuring of the school district – a goal which Davis predicts will take a least five years. Moreover, success will take the support of the entire community, particularly the business community.

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That is why Davis came on Tuesday to the members of the Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. Davis came with school board member Craig Langnes and district PR official Millicent Mayo, and he came offering a candid analysis of the district’s status and an earnest request for help – from continued Chamber support of the Partners In Education program to active interest and involvement on the part of the chamber board members.

His visit was motivated, in part, by a desire to counteract what he referred to as &uot;negative press&uot; in the community, from concerns over the discipline plan to public infighting by members of the district’s Board of Trustees. And he was motivated by his desire to involve the community in the rebuilding of the school district.

Whether simply negative press or misguided perceptions, Davis said he believes the community is missing an important part of the education success story: the day-to-day learning and educating taking place in the classroom. There, he said, the children are engaged and learning; the teachers are active and engaging.

And, the district is realizing success. Referring to handout titled &uot;Budgeting For Success,&uot; Davis directed the business leaders to a lengthy list of improvements and successes the district has tallied in his two and half years as superintendent. Granted, much of it is, in his words, &uot;bricks and mortar things.&uot; But the list shows tangible successes. The other challenges – improving curriculum, raising test scores, changing mindset – take longer to implement and measure, he said.

In the community, though, the questions are nagging. To their credit, Davis and his team realize this. And, they realize the need to counter those questions with candid facts and honesty.

Perhaps that’s why board member Norris Edney spoke to the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen last week. Perhaps that’s why Davis chose to bring his message to the chamber board members this week.

Perhaps the motivation doesn’t really matter.

What matters most is that the district’s officials are reaching out and presenting their case. In speaking to the chamber leaders, Davis tried to bridge the gap between education and the community it serves by pointing out the obvious differences a corporate approach to implementing and measuring change to the realities of education.

And, yes, differences do exist. But successful businesses and successful educational systems share some similarities – a strong vision and a winning attitude; integrity; high goals and accountability; a desire to build consensus and ownership; talented and capable team members; and the resources and support to let those team members excel.

Perhaps that is the message Davis and his partners in the district want to share.

Stacy Graning, editor, can be reached at 445-3539 or via e-mail,