Groups meet on school problems

Published 11:40 pm Wednesday, March 5, 2008

NATCHEZ — The Natchez- Adams School Board recognizes that there are problems with the school district, and they are willing to find solutions.

This was the end result of a two-hour meeting Wednesday night, which included the Natchez Board of Aldermen, Adams County Board of Supervisors and the school board.

The Committee for Better Public Schools attended the meeting, as well.

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Dr. Benny Wright, local dentist and representative of the committee, passed out a sheet of information that pointed out several problems with the school district.

One issue dealt with a consultant fee of $465,000 in 2007.

Consultants were brought to the schools to see what could be done to improve the teaching process, school officials said.

Wright argues that no improvements have been seen and that the schools are still a level 2.

School board member Kenneth Taylor said consultant fees aren’t cheap and results aren’t going to be seen right away.

“It’s too early to determine whether or not it’ll pan out but we hope it will,” he said.

He also said it can’t be expected for a school to jump three levels in one year.

School board member Matilda Stephens said communication is the key to solving the district’s problems.

“The reality is there are problems in the school district, serious, serious problems,” she said. “If communication is not there then all you’re doing is blowing hot air.”

Stephens said she is willing to work to fix these problems.

School board member Thelma Newsome said she was concerned with a statement on the handout that compared the number of suspended students in the Natchez-Adams School District to that of Starkville.

Natchez had 200 times more suspensions than Starkville, according to the sheet.

Newsome, who teaches fourth grade across the river in Ferriday, said suspensions are no way to deal with problem children.

“As a teacher, my theme is I’ve got to work with these children,” she said. “Putting them out of the class won’t make a difference.”

Other concerns among the audience were the school’s loss of advanced placement classes and the increase of the superintendent’s pay but the decrease of graduation rates and test scores.

Since this was only a forum for problems, no action was taken.

Mayor Phillip West did request more information on this matter and that a meeting take place with the superintendent in executive session.

Wednesday’s meeting was the result of a request from the Committee for Better Public Schools, which was made to the city and county officials.