Natchez-Adams School District hires full-time dropout prevention liaison

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District will continue its efforts to increase graduation rates and decrease dropout rates with the hiring of a full-time position approved Tuesday.

At a specially called meeting Tuesday afternoon, the NASD Board of Trustees approved the creation of a community and dropout prevention/recovery liaison.

The board also approved a job description for the position, which states the employee will “facilitate the return of frequently truant students and the reentry of students who have dropped out of the education system; provide information and/or referrals to community resources; and perform other job-related duties as assigned for at-risk youth to insure successful high school completion and transition.”

Email newsletter signup

After those two matters were approved, the board also approved a recommendation by Superintendent Frederick Hill to hire Orlando Pannell, a Tupelo native who has worked as a consultant for the district since 2012.

As a consultant, Pannell was charged with leading a dropout recovery program.

Hill said the program Pannell led helped the district increase its graduation rate from 50 to 65 percent in its first year in operation.

“And this year we’re expecting our graduation rate to be between 70 to 80 percent,” Hill said. “It has proven to be effective, and (the district) is seeing improvements there.”

Pannell’s original contract was extended in August to continue being an administrative consultant as well as child find liaison.

Through the child find program, Pannell sought out students who or decided not to attend school anymore and offered them alternative solutions to complete their education.

The students are given the option to come to a computer lab at the high school anytime between 3:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday to complete lessons. Students can also complete those lessons on computers from of their home.

Pannell said continuing the child find program, while also communicating with districts across the state to find other beneficial programs, will be critical to ensuring student success.

“From Point A to Point Z, we need to make sure that we’re helping these students in any way we can to keep the students motivated, in school, ready to graduate and continue their education further,” Pannell said. “And we’ll try and keep finding new ways to bring those students back who have left the district.”

Pannell said building a support system with everyone from teachers to parents to community members is also essential.

“We need to be creating a buy in for the students, the community and the district so the continual upward movement of the graduation rate continues to increase,” Pannell said. “If we can continue to get that buy in from all the stake holders, the district is going to be fine and see many good years ahead.”

Hill said moving Pannell from a contracted employee to a district employee will ultimately save the district money.

“One of the concerns expressed by the board was having someone in the district fulltime in that position instead of on a contract,” Hill said. “The responsibilities are the same, but we’re just getting out of the consulting contract and into a district position.”

The board approved the hire of Pannell with a 4-0 vote, with Board President Wayne Barnett abstaining.

Barnett said he believed the position should have been advertised throughout the community to make it fair for anyone interested to apply.

“It’s just good business to do,” Barnett said. “That way you advertise a position where the community is made aware and anyone who may be interested in the job has the opportunity to apply.”

Pannell attended Mississippi State University and earned an associate’s degree of Biblical studies from Cornerstone Bible Seminary.

From July 2008 to September 2012, Pannell worked as the director of community development and entrepreneurship for the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo.

Pannell then worked as president and chief executive officer of Equations Consulting Group, a firm he started, in Tupelo.