Let’s move the school district forward

Published 11:11 pm Saturday, September 22, 2007

The Natchez public schools have received their report cards. Test scores are back, and schools are found lacking. Only one school in Natchez received a level 3 ranking. While the other schools received a level 2 ranking, this is equivalent of a “D” rating. Susie B. West and Frazier Elementary were not given a ranking.

I have been a parent in public education for over a decade and my children have excelled in the public school system. During that span, the resources available, the diverse opportunities in the classroom, the quality of educators and the extra curriculum activities made available have prepared them to compete and excel. In recent years, I have witnessed the downward spiral of our schools. In my opinion, it started with bringing personnel from outside of Natchez to fix local problems, while not using many of the fine principals and teachers here in Natchez.

I am encouraged when I walk into the schools and meet the bright young minds throughout our district. There is no excuse for Natchez to be near the bottom, trailing nearby school districts, with the talent and resources he have in the Natchez-Adams School District. I want to encourage every parent, community leaders, business owners and citizen of Adams County to get involved and find a way to make a difference in young people’s lives. This community is affected by the performance of students in the Natchez-Adams School District.

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I am a firm believer that accountability must begin at home. Our children need to be told who is in charge before they leave home and respect must be given starting with the school bus driver, the janitor, teachers, principal and everyone they meet. If I may use the words of the Rev. Jesse Jackson, “It’s not your aptitude but your attitude that will determine your altitude.”

Teachers must be given the resources, a safe environment, the support, a voice with administration and the freedom to do their job. Once those things are in place, they must be held accountable for the children under their watch. Every child should be reading before he reaches third grade and if not, teachers must be held accountable. Those students not reading at grade level should be known and documented. A clear, concise and appropriate plan of action should be in place and implemented.

Administrators/principals have a great responsibility in our schools; they should work closely with our teachers and parents. The decision they make can affect us for years or generations to come. They, too, must be held accountable. I get concerned when I see the administrative salaries go up and test scores go down! Where is the accountability? I get further concerned when thousands of dollars are spent on consultants and no measurable results are made known to the public. I have watched as the pride level of students drop from year to year. We talk about discipline but not how to create excellence in our school.

Our school performance can improve but our district must look at our current leadership to ask the hard questions: Are school leaders moving beyond their comfort zone and finding out what the problems are in our district? Can the leaders in our school district meet the demands of the schools? Are we satisfied with “D” level schools? Has the community done all we can to support our administrators and teachers? Have we as a community gotten so complacent that we will settle for low standards?

I am still a believer in public education and I believe the best opportunity to create a highly motivated well-rounded student is in the public schools. Let us join and move this school district forward. Wisdom is the principal thing, but let us seek understanding.

Michael Winn is a local business owner and a resident of Natchez.