School officials looking for more feedback on reorganization plan

Published 4:59 pm Wednesday, May 8, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Natchez Adams School District parents and stakeholders have one week left to respond to a survey about the proposed reorganization plan for kindergarten through eighth-grade schools.

With approximately 140 responses so far, Superintendent Zandra McDonald Green said feedback has mostly been positive with just a few concerns about transportation from households with multiple children who would be attending different schools.

“The district will provide bus transportation to all students,” she said. “There may be some challenges but we will address those. There are some respondents saying leave the schools as they are but our concern is staffing and making sure we’re able to provide certified teachers in every classroom if possible. It’s not an easy process but the benefits outweigh the challenges.”

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The proposed organization plan would place students in grade-level-based schools instead of community-based ones.

The tentative proposal, which must be voted on by the school board, would make Susie B West Elementary a pre-kindergarten through first-grade school; Gilmer McLaurin Elementary a second- through fourth-grade school; Morgantown Elementary a fifth- and sixth-grade school; and Natchez Middle School a seventh- and eighth-grade school.

Before that decision is made, Green said more feedback is being sought from the “entire community — but especially parents who will be directly impacted by this proposal.”

Click here to start the survey  

The survey will remain active online through Wednesday, May 15, so that the results can be reviewed before the school board makes a decision at the May 21 board meeting.

The primary reason for the new structure stems from a lack of teachers to cover the number of classrooms in the district.

Green said by moving students around there are fewer teachers needed, but still not enough to have a certified teacher for every classroom.

“At last count, we have 21 vacancies for certified teachers with the most critical area being elementary education,” Green said. “With restructuring, I cannot guarantee a certified teacher in every classroom but we would be able to increase the number of classrooms with certified teachers. Once we reorganize, the need for as many teachers would decrease.”

The district has 209 certified teachers after several teachers retired from the district, she said. Others have indicated in their exit interviews that they plan on relocating out of county and out of state.

Additionally, Natchez Adams School District has seen a steady decline in students over the last decade as the population of Adams County has also declined.

While NASD will not have enrollment numbers for the 2024-2025 academic school year until school starts, Green said current enrollment stands at 2,702 students. That is down from approximately 2,800 students at the same time last year.

Green said to her knowledge, most of those students have relocated out of the area as well.

“A small percentage transferred to local private or parochial schools, but those numbers are low,” she said. “We’re competing with other places out of state and even parts of our state with a higher quality of life, job opportunities and attractions that we don’t have here in Adams County.”

Green said teacher applicants will continue to be interviewed until those positions are filled while current teachers who are not certified are receiving help from the district to earn their certification.

“For certified teachers in our most critical areas of need, we offer a $5,000 sign-on bonus to increase our chances of hiring them,” she said. Those critical areas include English, Math, Science and Special Education.

“In those areas, it is difficult to get certified teachers,” Green said.

“The uncertified teachers we have are matched with mentors who are veteran teachers who’ve demonstrated that they know how to improve student achievement.”

Green added uncertified teachers also receive guidance and support at monthly meetings with curriculum ambassadors trained in the lessons they teach as well as academic coaches.

“Whatever we can do to support our non-certified teachers we are doing,” she said. “We’re also providing support in Praxis prep — that is the teacher certification exam.”