Charter schools to impact NASD? New schools would take funds away from district

Published 12:12 am Sunday, February 16, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Natchez-Adams School District could lose $1.5 million in funding if one of the three charter schools planned for the area gets approved in June.

NASD Superintendent Frederick Hill said the best way to ensure those funds aren’t lost is to improve schools in the district.

“That is a concern for us, but there is one way to combat it and that’s to get our schools better,” Hill said. “We need to beat them at their own game.”

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Hill shared that news with Board of Trustee members Thursday and provided board members with copies of the letters of intent filed by three groups interested in opening charter schools in the area.

Charter schools are public schools run by private groups that agree to meet certain standards in exchange for less regulation.

In 2013, the Mississippi Legislature approved measures allowing for the schools to operate in the state in poor performing districts.

Thirty groups submitted letters of intent last month in hopes of opening schools throughout the state.

Three of those groups submitted letters to open schools in Natchez.

Mississippi’s Charter School Authorizer Board may approve up to 15 charter school applications per year.

Applications for charter schools are due March 14, and the authorizer board will vote on them in June. State officials said it’s likely the first charter schools could open in fall 2015.

Based on the projected enrollment figures on the charter group’s letters of intent, Hill said one of the three schools opening in the area could end up costing the district $1.5 million based on how much money the district receives per student.

The estimated per pupil expenditures for NASD is comprised of local, state, federal and intermediate funds the district receives each year.

The Mississippi expenditure per pupil formula is calculated by taking the total current operating expenditures from various funds, including general and special revenue, and dividing it by the average daily attendance for the district.

Transportation costs, the number of special education students and the amount of students who receive free and reduced lunch all factor into how much NASD receives per student each year.

The groups applying for charter schools in the area list various programs and curriculum models that Hill said sound enticing on paper, but are also things that some district schools already implement or have been suggested for implementation.

“All those arts, sciences and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs are all concepts I’ve already introduced to you,” Hill said. “If we give the students the same options at our schools, it will be hard for them to get the enrollment because we’re already offering that in our schools and doing a good job at it.”

In other news from the meeting:

• The board approved an addendum to the student handbook to comply with a legislative action passed last year that requires third grade-students to reach a certain achievement level in reading before advancing to the fourth grade.

The Literacy-Based Promotion Act was passed during the 2013 Legislative session and states a student scoring at the lowest achievement level in reading on the established state assessment for third grade will not be promoted to the fourth grade. The requirements go into effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

Board member Benny Wright asked if there would be checkpoints established throughout the year to ensure a student was on track to reach the achievement level or might need extra help.

“Is there any kind of tutorial program to prepare Johnny for the test?” Wright asked. “Or is it a matter of waiting until he fails the test and then acting?”

Deputy Superintendent Tanisha Smith told Wright and the board there would be frequent checks throughout the year to ensure a student was on track to reach the achievements.

“We would have interval checks, so you wouldn’t just find out at the end of the year if they were going to pass or fail,” Smith said. “We also plan on doing something at the end of this year with those second grade students who will be taking it next year to see where they are.”

• The board honored eight teachers in the district who were voted as NASD Teachers of the Year by their peers.

The following teachers received recognition:

• Toni Martin, Frazier Elementary

• Jamal McCullen, McLaurin Elementary

• Loran Scott, West Elementary

• Bonita Hamilton, Morgantown Middle

• Virginia Robertson, Natchez High

• Eddie Smith, Freshman Academy

• Albert Davis, Robert Lewis Magnet School

• Eric Stewman, Fallin Career Center

Robertson was also recognized as the NASD District Teacher of the Year.

• Long-time NASD educator, administrator and board president Wayne Barnett announced he would not be seeking reappointment to the NASD Board of Trustees.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors appointed Barnett to the board in 2009.

Barnett has served as a teacher, an assistant principal and co-principal at Natchez High School during integration, a principal at Natchez Middle School and Natchez High, curriculum coordinator for secondary schools, director of student activities and safety and director of operations.

“It’s been a good ride, and I’ve enjoyed it,” Barnett said. “I’ve enjoyed my time with the school district.”

The supervisors will take nominations for Barnett’s replacement Tuesday.