School district communicates goals during town hall meeting

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, November 14, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Dr. Frederick Hill speaks to parents and community members during the Natchez-Adams School District town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Natchez Community Center.

NATCHEZ — Superintendent Frederick Hill achieved Tuesday night part one of step No. 8 on his eight-part goal list for creating effective schools in Adams County.

But the road from No. 1 to No. 7 is long, Hill said numerous times, and will take everyone’s help.

His goal for Tuesday night, though, was enough for one night — begin improving school-community relations.

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The Natchez-Adams School District hosted a town hall meeting to open those lines of communication and encourage community involvement.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — A crowd listens to Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Dr. Frederick Hill Tuesday night during a town hall meeting about the schools at the Natchez Community Center.

Approximately 150 community members, including several aldermen, school board members and school employees, attended and many people asked questions.

“You are our stakeholders,” Hill said to the crowd. “Whether you are directly involved in the school district or not, you are still a stakeholder. If you pay taxes you are a stakeholder. If you live in Louisiana, you pay federal taxes, and you are a stakeholder.

“It’s my obligation to show you what you are getting for your money.”

Hill walked the crowd through a brief PowerPoint that outlined the school’s vision and mission statements, accountability standards and goals for improvement.

The state of Mississippi recently ranked the Natchez district with an F, based on a scoring index compiled from state tests and standards. Currently the district is classified as low-performing, meaning it received a numerical grade between 100 and 132.

Hill said he wants to see that number rise to 166 or higher next year.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we aren’t going to do it all this year,” he said. “But we could be a B school district in one year.

“I know there’s a lot of hard work involved with that, but I know we can’t take another year to decide we won’t be an F school district.”

Hill’s goals to improvement — borrowed from educational researcher and author Larry Lezotte — include seven strategies in addition to community relations. They are:

1. Safe and orderly environment

2. Climate of high expectations

3. Instructional leadership

4. Clear and focused mission

5. Opportunity to learn and time on task

6. Frequent monitoring

7. Home-school relations

Hill, who started as superintendent in July, said he is currently working with administrators on all those areas.

Hill answered more than 20 questions submitted by the audience that included concerns about discipline, transportation, textbooks, technology and teacher qualifications.

He agreed, several times, to look into a concern or implement a procedure to handle it and asked anyone with further questions to contact his office.

“If you ask me can we meet or can we talk, I’ll commit myself to that,” he said.

Hill also said more meetings like Tuesday’s would be planned and publicized.

“I am not satisfied with where we are as a district, and no one should be,” he said. “We are an F school district, we know that, and we own that.

“It’s going to take a high level of commitment from students, parents and community members.”