Board approves new app to stay connected

Published 12:02 am Friday, August 14, 2015

NATCHEZ — Soon, Natchez-Adams County School District families will offer school news like Facebook updates through push notifications.

The NASD school board voted to enter into an agreement with a messaging application called SchoolWay, created by Jostens.

The app allows one-way communication to families about subjects like weather alerts, rehearsal news and testing dates. It also sends out text messages to those who do not have phones that allow push notifications.

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“We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to reach more parents,” Steven Richardson, NASD public relations coordinator, said.

Richardson said the public relations department would take charge of the app at first to test it before handing it over to school officials.

The messaging app is currently being offered for free. If Jostens decides to charge for it in the future, they have to give notice.

SchoolWay will be offered In addition to Blackboard Connect, the service the district currently uses. Blackboard uses text messaging, emails and automated calls to communicate, but not push notifications.

While School Board President Timothy Blalock said he supported the adoption of the app, he said Jostens might try to use it to get marketing information.

However, board members pointed out Jostens is already a partner with the district.

Board member Thelma Newsome moved for approval and Board Member Cynthia Smith seconded. The motion passed unanimously at 4-0, as the board’s vice president, Dr. Benny Wright, was not present.

The board also approved a request for the authorization for services provided by the Mississippi Forestry Commission for timber sales in 16th section land.

Smith motioned to accept and Board Member Amos James Jr. seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

The Mississippi Forestry Commission’s Annual Report for 2015 and 2016 came to the board shortly after. The report estimated revenues of $143,914 for the two years with expenses estimated to be $19,523.

Smith moved to approve and was seconded by Newsome. The motion passed unanimously.

In other action at Thursday’s meeting:

4 Strategic and dropout prevention plans were also approved. Many of the test score areas in the strategic plan were left blank because the data had not come back yet.

“As we get the data back, we will present that final copy to the board for approval,” Superintendent Dr. Frederick Hill said.

The data included in the dropout prevention plan was from the 2013-2014 year, since the data in the plan is always a year behind.

During that time, the district did not achieve an 80 percent or higher graduation rate, which is the goal. The plan will try to raise graduation rates.

Both times Newsome moved for approval and Smith seconded. Both passed 4-0.

4 Two personnel matters were discussed toward the end of the meeting.

The first was to rescind an offer of employment which was rejected by the applicant, and was motioned for acceptance by Smith and seconded by Newsome. It passed 4-0.

The second was the approval of a job description for an operations manager and the creation of a reading interventionist position.

Smith expressed concerns about creating more positions to fill when there was already a shortage of teachers.

However, Hill said the priority was filling vacant positions which already exist.

Smith moved to accept and Amos seconded. The motion passed unanimously.

4 Several consent items were passed without discussion, such as the approval of the Ad Valorem Tax Request Resolution, which is a request for funds to the County Board of Supervisors, and the acceptance of the $26,635 Blue Cross Shield Mississippi Fitness Program Grant for Frazier L. Elementary School.

Newsome moved for approval of the consent items, and was seconded by Amos. The motion passed unanimously.

4 At the end of the meeting, the board went into executive session to discuss four legal matters, which concerned litigation and potential litigation.

Newsome motioned to go into executive session and was seconded by Smith. The board decided to go into executive session 4-0.