Expansion leads 2001 education

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 2, 2002

Wednesday, January 02, 2002

The Natchez Democrat

Upset over forgotten promises of salary increases, Louisiana

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teachers went on a two-day sickout in March creating one of the

biggest events in education for the Miss-Lou this year.

In response to the sickout, the Concordia Parish School District

canceled classes for two days because of the small number of schoolteachers

expected to report to work those two days.

&uot;We polled our employees and a sufficient number of them

said they would not be coming to school Thursday and Friday,&uot;

said Superintendent Dr. Lester &uot;Pete&uot; Peterman.

This left parents scrambling to make other childcare arrangements

for those two days while others worried about the impact of losing

two days of school just prior to the Louisiana Educational Assessment

Program test later that month.

Also, the Legislature approved a pay increase increase for

teachers through a new gambling measure. Later that year, the

Legislature approved another $1,000 for teachers through the minimum

foundation formula.

Other major events in Miss-Lou education this year were:

1) The Concordia Parish School District is in the process of

moving into new classrooms constructed at Ferriday Lower Elementary

School, Monterey School and Vidalia Lower Elementary School this


The classrooms will replace portable units at the schools.

The district funded the $1.8 million project with a 13-mill,

five-year tax increase approved by the voters.

&uot;It really isn’t anything fancy but for the amount of

money I think we got a big bang for the buck,&uot; said Tom O’Neal,

director of business affairs for the Concordia Parish School District.

&uot;I really do.&uot;

2) Public schools in Concordia Parish met and, in most cases,

exceeded their growth goals this year under the state’s new accountability


&uot;We just couldn’t be more excited about it,&uot; Peterman

said. &uot;And we’re really confident that all of our schools

will reach their growth goals in the next two years, too.&uot;

The grading was part of the state’s new accountability system.

It grades schools based on performance on the LEAP test, the graduation

exit exam, the Iowa test, attendance rates and dropout rates.

3) In compliance with state law, the Natchez-Adams School District

placed posters in each classroom bearing the words, &uot;In God

We Trust,&uot; in September.

In light of the events of Sept. 11, Millicent Mayo, public

relations director for the Natchez-Adams School District, thought

the timing was perfect to distribute the pictures.

&uot;Everybody I handed it to, their eyes lit up,&uot; she


4) An Adams County jury voted 11-1 in favor of the Natchez-Adams

School District involving a breach of contract case involving

former Superintendent Dr. Melvin Buckley.

Buckley had sued the district for allegedly not honoring a

settlement agreement drafted when the school board opted not to

renew Buckley’s superintendent contract for 1993-1994.

He filed an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court several

months later.

5) Four police officers began work this fall as student resource

officers (SROs) for the Natchez-Adams School District.

Stationed at Natchez High School, Robert Lewis Middle School

and Central Alternative School, the SROs are veteran police officers

with wear the same uniforms and have the same authority as officers

with the Natchez Police Department.

A grant from the U.S. Department of Education for approximately

$350,00 will fund their salaries for three years.

6) After having a state law brought to their attention, the

members of the Natchez-Adams School Board decided to look into

flying the state flag at school campuses.

Even though the flag is considered controversial because it

includes the rebel flag, state law requires districts to fly the

state flag, the America flag and educate students about both.

If the district does not comply with this law, former Natchez

resident Bob Crook and his brother Richard Crook, of Natchez,

have threatened to sue the district.

7) AJFC Community Action Agency broke ground in March on a

$3.1 million renovation at Thompson School on North Union Center.

The school serves as the agency’s Head Start facility for Adams


About 400 children attend the school, which offers education

and daycare services for low-income families whose children range

in age from newborn to preschool.

Also this year, AJFC expanded its services to include partnerships

with local daycares and the Natchez-Adams School District.

8) West Primary School and McLaurin Elementary School began

their first year of Barksdale funding this year.

Frazier Primary School and Morgantown Elementary School are

in their second year of funding.

The schools received to funding through the Barksdale Reading

Institute to improve reading skills among students on a preschool

to third-grade level.

Netscape Chief James Barksdale and his wife, Sally, established

the institute through a recent $100 million donation.

This program is one of many ways the local district is working

to improve student performance.

The district continues to test students three times a year

with district written exit skills tests based on the state’s required


9) The Natchez-Adams School Board decided to use about $3.8

million leftover from a Trustmark account and its Mississippi

Adequate Education Program to continue facility improvements at

district schools.

This money had originally been designated to renovate Braden

School when the school board was considering reopening the building

as an Elementary School.

Since the school board is no longer considering that option,

the school board decided to use the money to replace windows,

install elevator chairs and to fund other needed projects.

10) With just a few months, remaining in his contract, Natchez-Adams

Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis recently said he is watching for

jobs in other districts and has applied for several positions


The school board selected Davis as superintendent in January

1999, and his contract ends June 30.

School board members said they would discuss whether or not

to renew Davis’ contract at their January meeting.