School board approves new accountability plan

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 18, 2009

NATCHEZ — A 3-2 vote among school board trustees has set the ball rolling for a new academic accountability plan for Natchez-Adams School District.

After reviewing the district’s Quality Distribution Index scores and finding the school system to be in the “at risk of failing” category, some educators present at Thursday’s meeting said the results didn’t vary much from what they expected from the district.

“This was not a surprise, but this is what the state put out,” Director of Curriculum and Instruction Charlotte Franklin said.

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Board member Harold Wayne Barnett said after several years of knowing the school system was struggling, he had a few questions for educators.

“We have had these scores since July. What are we doing different in the Natchez-Adams School District based on these results? What are we doing different this year, and what are we planning on doing in the years ahead?” Barnett asked.

Barnett said the school district needs a plan to make sure its students are achieving.

“I believe the students in Adams County can learn. I have heard the excuses for years, and I can recite them, but that’s not the purpose of this (discussion),” Barnett said.

“The state said we’re in danger of failing,” Barnett said. “We are failing because we’re not meeting our mission statement, and we’re not meeting our vision statement.”

Board member Benny Wright said he’d been giving the test scores some thought and made a motion that Superintendent Anthony Morris form an accountability plan for Natchez-Adams County schools.

Wright’s motion requested that the plan not only focus on raising test scores and areas in which students struggle academically, but he also asked the plan review the salaries of low-performing and high-performing employees.

“We should be addressing our principals and have them answer to us, and see what they are already doing,” Wright said.

Morris said the request was a slight to the principals and teachers in the county and that accountability plans had been discussed at a retreat in which school officials met to talk about test scores and plans for the upcoming year.

Board President Norris Edney said while there is no question that the school system needs an effective accountability plan, he wasn’t sure if the motion to create a new one without examining what already exists.

“The need for a plan of accountability is not my argument,” Edney said. “I think anyone should agree that we have to work harder, plan better and do some things.”

While all board members agreed something should be done to pull the school district out of the danger Edney and board member Dale Steckler voted against the idea of Morris putting together a new plan.

In other news:

4 The board was asked to think about donating land near Natchez High School for the county’s FEMA 360 shelter.

Adams County Emergency Director Stan Owens, Supervisor Mike Lazarus and representatives from Mississippi Emergency Management Agency told the board the shelter was an ideal addition for the high school.

“Natchez High is not very severe weather friendly,” Owens said.

The $3-million, 10,000-square-foot-emergency facility requires a $162,000 match in kind.

Lazarus told the board if the school gives the county two or three acres of land, the grant would likely be matched.

“(That way,) there is no money being spent by the school system or the county,” said Lazarus.

“I can’t imagine us turning down a $3 million building for free,” Lazarus said. “You would have this shelter right here at the school if you’re interested.”

Edney said when documentation and legal aspects of the project were presented to him and the board, further discussion could occur, but until then, no decision could be made.

The school board will meet again on Jan. 21.