Board questions Ferriday schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 3, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; All four Ferriday principals faced the school board behind closed doors Tuesday night, but the topic of their discussion wasn&8217;t shared with the more than 50 community members waiting outside.

The overflow crowd came amid rumors of personnel changes that would flip-flop some Ferriday principals from school to school.

They&8217;ll have to wait until next Tuesday&8217;s regular board meeting for answers.

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The special meeting was the result of a request from the board to see a plan for improvement in the three Ferriday schools that received failing marks from the state last year.

&8220;We&8217;d challenged the superintendent to come up with a plan,&8221; board member Ricky Raven said after the meeting. &8220;Tonight was the first roll out of that plan.&8221;

But after more than three hours of executive session, there was no consensus.

&8220;They gave me a charge to come back with a plan (earlier in the year),&8221; Superintendent Kerry Laster said after the meeting. &8220;I came back with a plan. The plan was to make some personnel moves.&8221;

The board asked Laster to come back Tuesday with a new plan.

&8220;I&8217;ll sit down with my directors, and we&8217;ll look to see if there&8217;s a way to reach a compromise with the board,&8221; Laster said.

&8220;We are trying to take the proactive version of doing something before the state comes in here and says this is what you are going to do.&8221;

Ferriday Lower, Ferriday Upper and Ferriday Junior High were labeled &8220;academically unacceptable&8221; at the start of this year based on last year&8217;s state test scores. The schools are in Level 2 of school improvement. Pending this year&8217;s scores they could fall into Level 3. Harsher consequences come in Level 3, and more detailed plans are required to be submitted to the state.

In open session, Laster presented an update on current school improvement plans at the three schools. She stressed the difficulty the district has in hiring and placing teachers in the Ferriday schools. She also said there is a teacher shortage everywhere. In the past, the board has discussed an extra financial incentive to teachers who teach in Ferriday.

The board listened to each of the Ferriday administrators Tuesday, Laster said.

&8220;It was a positive meeting in some respects,&8221; she said. &8220;We did do a lot of talking, but we did do a lot of listening. We were able to talk out some things.&8221;

Ultimately, she said, the issue at hand is the children.

&8220;This is not an adult issue,&8221; Laster said. &8220;We owe those kids the best we can give them.&8221;

Raven agreed, saying the district would need community support to get the job done.

&8220;I&8217;m sorry it took a long time with a very good

turnout here,&8221; he said after the meeting. &8220;I&8217;m proud to see the turnout. We need civic involvement, need parental involvement.&8221;

Much of the crowd was teachers and staff from the Ferriday schools. Each time a principal went in to talk to the board, the crowd erupted with applause and cheers of support.

Ferriday Alderman Glenn Henderson said he came to hear the plan.

&8220;I&8217;m just concerned about what they are going to do with the principals,&8221; he said. &8220;I&8217;ve talked with some, and I think they have good ideas.&8221;

Board member Jerry Roberts said the board was just interested in making improvements.

&8220;We understand there are some changes that need to be made,&8221; he said.

A motion made by Raymond Riley asked Laster to bring back more information by Tuesday.

&8220;We have a lot to work on between now and next Tuesday,&8221; Laster said after the meeting.