Public hears group’s concerns over school district

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NATCHEZ — Between 50 and 60 people attended a meeting hosted by the Committee for Better Public Schools Monday night, but some said the crowd wasn’t nearly big enough.

The committee, a group formed a few months ago that has already asked that Superintendent Anthony Morris be replaced, has compiled a list of concerns about the schools.

They presented their concerns to the Adams County Board of Supervisors, the Natchez Board of Aldermen and the Natchez-Adams School Board last week.

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Sharon Bradford, member of the committee and parent of children in the school system, said she was disappointed in the turn out.

“This room should be filled to capacity,” Bradford said.

Anyone who pays taxes in Adams County should be involved in the school system, she said.

She said she wants the facts presented Monday night to be known in the entire community.

“This is our society and it is an alarming fact to the community as a whole,” Bradford said.

Some of the committee’s concerns deal with suspension rates, test scores and drop outs.

Michael Winn, committee member and local pharmacist, said the school system has fallen to a poor state.

“It’s time for us to return our schools to excellence,” Winn said.

He urged parent involvement, saying that there is not enough parental support.

“We all have a responsibility,” he said. “We need to take responsibility for our children.”

Dr. Benny Wright, committee member and local dentist, presented the facts that were presented to the boards last week.

He compared the money spent per student in Adams County to the money spent per student in Hinds County.

He said for each student in Hinds County, $7,009.29 is spent and their schools are levels four and five. For each Adams County student, $8,981.64 is spent and the schools are at levels two and three.

He talked about consulting fees that have been paid to help improve the school to no avail, he said.

Donnell Newsome, a retired teacher from the school district, spoke about a lack of school pride, another one of the committees concerns.

He said having pride used to not be an issue but it is now and with pride comes better achievement.

“Once we get that pride back, everything will come back,” Newsome said.

Aldermen Theodore “Bubber” West stood up and responded to a question asked about the aldermen and supervisors having a regular dialogue with the school board.

West said the school board is appointed and therefore not required after their appointment to keep in contact with city officials.

This elicited a response from Winn stating that the school board should be elected.

“With that comes accountability,” Winn said.

Rita Winn, committee member, said she was glad the public was informed with the information. She said most importantly, the school needs to be supported because the children are the most important aspect.

“We have to find ways to support the school, even if we don’t always agree with what they do,” Winn said.

Gwen Watson is a concerned grandparent whose grandson has been suspended and shifted around the system and expelled multiple times since 2005.

“He’s been treated unjustly,” Watson said.

Afterwards, attendees were given the opportunity to sign a petition in support of the committee.