Public schools must see change now

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Winds of progressive socio-political change of tornadic velocities sweep across the United States with great emphasis on public school education. However, in our public school district there is but a faint zephyr of academic progress and development, based on performance evaluations, three Ds and one C for four district schools.

On May 8, the Committee for Better Public Schools hosted a community meeting with State Superintendent Dr. Hank Bounds. The meeting was scheduled by Dr. Bounds as the only time he could be in Natchez. We thought the public meeting was informative and successful, despite The Democrat’s editorial on May 11 that appeared to denigrate and malign our most altruistic efforts to improve the education and future quality of life for all of our students. None the less, we will persevere, for our children must be able to compete in a new global environment.

The editorial indicated that Dr. Bound preached togetherness; however, you failed to mention that when asked directly, “What could we do to improve our public schools?,” Dr. Bounds responded with several concrete points to evaluate and utilize, particularly the following:

Email newsletter signup

4We must demand a community. There are two types of communities — demand and supply. Demand communities demand leadership, quality and success. Supply communities accept whatever they are supplied with. We must demand a change in the leadership and the performance in the Natchez-Adams School District.

4Third-grade reading skills are the best predictor of a student’s future success in education and life. Our most recent third-grade reading test scores indicate that 34.9 percent of our third graders cannot read proficiently. Thus, most will do poorly in school and in life. We must make some changes. Our high school dropout rate mirrors this third-grade reading statistic. In 2004, 300 freshmen entered high school, in 2008 approximately 206 graduated. We must not continue to lose 30 percent of our children because they cannot read.

4 Good teachers are the most important factor in learning and in improving the school district. On April 21, The Natchez Democrat published an article which said the school district employed 19 non-certified teachers during the 2007-2008 school year. Teachers are certified for a reason. Non-certified teachers do no manifest the ability to resurrect a failing school district. We must demand a change.

4Good principals are next in line behind good teachers. It is imperative that we have full-time leadership and accountability at all levels of administration.

We believe that Dr. Bounds afforded us some sound advice. We must demand a change in the leadership and accountability that produces such a dismal academic return on Adams County’s investment of a $41-plus million school district budget.

We must demand a change when we read, “Natchez High students failing at a high rate.” (The Natchez Democrat, Jan. 18) According to Natchez High Principal Dr. James Loftin “the English II scores saw a 36 percent failure rate in the first nine weeks grading period, 48.6 in the second nine weeks and one class was excluded, in which the grades were so low they weren’t even posted.” These kinds of results must be changed.

Despite the fact that our school district is floundering in a quagmire of poor leadership and academic performance, the sitting school board in July 2007 extended the contract of our current superintendent to the year 2011 and saw fit to increase his salary by $9,000 to $131,681. How can our school board, in all its sage wisdom, subject our students to this inept leadership and performance for three more years?

As the winds of educational progress and change blow across our nation and state, we must hoist our sails to catch these winds or remain stagnant with our level 2 — poor— schools.

We must demand a change in leadership of the Natchez-Adams School District.

Dr. Benny A. WRIGHT is a member of the Committe for Better Public Schools.