Superintendent candidates asked about schools’ image

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Changing the public perception of public schools was a question community residents asked of two Natchez-Adams Schools superintendent

candidates Thursday.

In the third and fourth of six interviews, Dr. Anthony Morris, director of personnel for the South Panola School District, and Dr. Laverne Collins, former superintendent of the Houston School District, faced a panel of community members before talking privately with the school board.

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Morris, a former principal at Natchez High School, said he would try to meet with the &uot;stakeholders in the community&uot; to let them know about the importance of public schools.

&uot;We don’t do what we ought to do in many cases to let (people) know what we have,&uot; he said.

As far as raising test scores is concerned, Morris said he would like to discuss the challenges with teachers and possible bring in help from the outside.

Either way, he said it is an ongoing process.

&uot;It’s not something you pick up one day and decide you’re going to work with it, and then put it aside,&uot; he said.

Morris also wants to involve teachers in the planning process to help raise morale. &uot;The best thing is to empower them to give more input,&uot; he said, noting that when he was at Natchez High, each teacher served on at least one of five planning committees.

When asked what his vision for the school district is, Morris said he wants Natchez-Adams Schools to be those which other schools in the state look to for ideas on success.

&uot;It’s just to help Natchez to realize its potential,&uot; he said.

Collins retired after seven years as Houston superintendent to open his own computer business.

He said he spent time walking around Natchez before the interview and found different perceptions of the school system among those with whom he talked.

Those with children in the system, he said, were supportive, while those who did not have children in schools or who had children in private schools were not.

&uot;It’s not a problem a superintendent is going to solve by himself,&uot; he said.

&uot;But there’s nothing that turns perception around like success. Š You’ve got good leadership. The materials needed to create success are in this community.&uot;

In raising test scores, Collins said, teachers and administrators need to ensure they promote integrity of instruction.

In Houston, he said, students who did not do their homework were not just punished &045; they were sent to detention, where they then had to do their homework.

&uot;The No. 1 thing is children have to have time to learn,&uot; he said.

Since Natchez-Adams

schools will lose money when International Paper closes, Collins said he would recommend looking at ways to &uot;spend money on what’s important.&uot;

&uot;You’re going to have to look at some tough times,&uot; Collins said.

&uot;You have to get creative. You have to find ways to get the same job done with less money.&uot;