Group wants Morris out of school

Published 12:01 am Saturday, March 1, 2008

NATCHEZ — A newly formed community committee is requesting that Superintendent Anthony Morris be removed from his job.

Morris has been the superintendent of the Natchez-Adams County School District for more than four years.

Michael Winn, a member of the committee, said the Committee for Better Public Schools was formed a few months ago.

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“We formed due to our deep concern over the school system,” Winn said.

Winn and Dr. Benny Wright spoke to the Natchez Board of Aldermen Tuesday, saying they have concerns about the public school system.

The concerns are listed in a letter the committee sent to the school board Jan. 31.

The first concern is “failure to successfully educate, motivate and prepare our children for the next level.”

Their other concerns as written in the letter are:

4Failure to accept responsibility for continued low performance of district schools

4Failure to retain many competent teachers in the district

4Retention of consultants at high prices and low results

4Failure to motivate and provide guidance to administrators, principals and staff

4Inability to effectively communicate with parents and the public

Winn said the school board has not responded to the letter the committee sent.

Morris said he only briefly saw the letter sent to the school board and he has not spoken to any members of the committee nor was he aware of the committee before the letter.

“This is the first I’ve heard of the committee,” Morris said. “This is a new group as far as I know with that particular title.”

The committee asked the aldermen to investigate several things.

The first is why the school district is a level 2, according to state rankings. The state ranks schools 1 to 5, with five as the best.

Wright also asked why the students receive outdated and dilapidated books although the school administration receives over $30 million a year.

He also said that during Morris’ time as superintendent, drop out and suspension rates have increased.

Finally, Wright wanted to find answers as to why many of the district’s best teachers and administrators have left.

“These concerns are not intended as a personal attack,” Wright said.

Winn said these concerns have been present for many years.

“There were early signs,” he said.

The committee was willing to wait it out and give Morris a chance, but now it has escalated to the point where they can’t sit back and do nothing anymore, Winn said.

Wright asked the mayor if a meeting with the board of aldermen, the school board and the board of supervisors could be scheduled to discuss these issues and address these concerns.

Mayor Phillip West, as of Friday afternoon, had not set up the meeting but said he hoped to make the requests to the boards soon.

He said the committee’s concerns will be addressed.

“I would imagine it would be an open discussion about the concerns that have been presented to us and get a reaction and response from the school board,” West said.

Winn said a few members of the committee are planning to attend the board of supervisors meeting Monday morning.

Though they are not on the agenda, Winn said hopefully they will get a chance to talk during a public hearing.

Winn said this will be an ongoing issue.

“We are dissatisfied with Anthony Morris,” Winn said. “We can do better and our school can do better.”

Morris said he plans to continue his work and commitment to the district.

“I have been very committed to do the very best that I could do and that my staff could do with the resources we have for the betterment of our kids,” he said.