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School administrators give board annual report


Bonnie Coblentz



Starkville school officials heard reports from five principals in their meeting Tuesday night, the first round of annual reports from administrators. 


Elizabeth Mosley, Lynn Shea, Diane Baker, Timothy Bourne and Joseph Stone addressed the board. These are principals of Sudduth Elementary, Overstreet Elementary, Ward-Stewart Elementary, Henderson Intermediate and Armstrong Middle schools, respectively. 


The major themes of all five presentations were more parental involvement, improved test scores, greater school involvement in the community, improved reading performance and dropout prevention. Conspicuously absent in this tight budget year were requests for additional spending. 


Mosley said the K-2 school could use a school resource officer or police officer to help direct traffic in the mornings and afternoons as carpool and bus traffic are at peak.  The school has nearly 1,100 students. Mosley said they hope to be in the school''s new wing by Feb. 15 or shortly after that. 


She reported that the playground will not be complete by the time they move into the new building, but the new walking track around the playground is almost complete already. 


Board member Keith Coble asked her about the iSTEEP test, and Mosley said she likes it. 


"It is another tool we can use for early intervention," she said. 


It is also used to identify those students who start the year in the mastery level on the test so teachers can give them extra stimulation to keep those students engaged and learning. 


Shea told the board of the high levels of parental involvement her third grade school is getting. 


"Our goal is to hold two community events each semester where parents are invited to attend," Shea said. "We also want to improve the community''s perception of our school." 


She said the students exceed the iSTEEP goals in reading and math competencies, and daily attendance has been at 96 percent for the year. 


Baker told the board her fourth through sixth grade school has "had a really good year in terms of our goals of being a centerpiece of our community." 


She said parents have participated well in the science club and principal''s forum, and many will be invited to the engineering night that is planned. Her students will soon be taking the Mississippi Curriculum Test, or MCT, and "I''m confident that we''re going to do a very good job on it." 


A goal is to continue to keep parents involved in what''s happening in the schools. She said to date, 80 percent of the classes have at least one parent who has helped as a tutor, teacher''s aide or assisted in some capacity with the class. 


Coble asked about the student''s preparation for the upcoming MCT, and Baker said they are following the pacing guides they established as a teaching schedule and exposing students to the format of the test. 


She also said positive behavior interventions have resulted in a drop in behavior problems, which is part of overall efforts that ultimately lead to a reduced high school dropout rate. 


The board was eager to hear an update on construction on "the hill," and Baker said the expects third grade to move into the Rosa building, fourth grade to move into the new building and fifth grade to occupy the renovated Henderson building. 


Bourne told the board about the challenges presented the sixth grade school by the construction that has moved them out of the Henderson building. 


"We''ve had some growing pains with the construction and renovation during the school year," he said. "Some classes that are team teaching are rooming together with a partition between them." 


Bourne updated the board on after-school and extended school year efforts to improve the performance of students failing or at risk of failing. He said these are showing success as many of the participating students have moved their grades higher. Of the nine students in summer school, only one failed to pass to the next grade last year. 


He addressed the need for common grading standards at the school, and said assistant superintendent Beth Sewell is working on this districtwide. Superintendent Judy Couey said administration is working "to make sure mastery of content areas is being measured the same way" across the district. 


"When I asked my administrators, ''What does it take to get an A at your school?'' they couldn''t tell me because they were all over the board," she said. 


Bourne said an ongoing effort at the school is the attempt to grow positive relationships at the school with students, another key in keeping them engaged and in school. 


Stone is finishing his first year at the seventh and eighth grade junior high, and spoke of positive results being seen with Operation Catch-Up, a fast-track program for students who have failed grades. His school has set goals of moving 8 percent of the students in the next round of MCT tests from basic to proficient and from proficient to advanced. 


He said 193 students are in MCT skills class to improve their performance on this standardized test. A major focus this year is on the transition to be made as sixth grade students move this fall into the junior high. 


"I''m giving it all that I have to make a positive impact on moving our kids to the high school," Stone said.




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