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Community meeting at Noxubee County schools addresses takeover

 

Rodriguez Broadnax, permanent interim superintendent for Noxubee County School District, spoke to more than 300 concerned teachers, parents and community members Tuesday night at Noxubee County High School gymnasium. Mississippi Department of Education has taken over operations at the district due to several standards violations.

Rodriguez Broadnax, permanent interim superintendent for Noxubee County School District, spoke to more than 300 concerned teachers, parents and community members Tuesday night at Noxubee County High School gymnasium. Mississippi Department of Education has taken over operations at the district due to several standards violations. Photo by: Mary Pollitz/Dispatch Staff

 

Mary Pollitz

 

 

More than 300 concerned parents, teachers and community stakeholders packed the Noxubee County High School gymnasium Tuesday to meet the new face of Noxubee County School District. 

 

While neither incoming Interim Superintendent Rodriguez Broadnax nor representatives from Mississippi Department of Education took questions from the audience regarding MDE's recent takeover the district, attendees seemed reassured by Broadnax's plans for the district, which include the creation of a task force and plans to meet with district staff and community members during the fall semester. 

 

On July 19, Gov. Phil Bryant declared NCSD in a state of emergency, which mandated state involvement. According to previous reporting by The Associated Press, the school district asked MDE for an emergency loan to make it through the 2018-19 school year.  

 

After the request, Bryant signed the executive order which replaced NCSD superintendent and school board with state control for the foreseeable future. 

 

At Tuesday's meeting, deputy state superintendent Washington Cole introduced Broadnax, currently a superintendent in South Dakota and who will officially start on Aug. 23, and George Gilreath, who will serve as interim superintendent until Broadnax takes the reins. Gilreath started work Monday.  

 

Cole said MDE took over NCSD because of "serious financial conditions" in the district. 

 

"We looked at 32 of accreditations and there were 26 of those standards that had been violated, thus jeopardizing the safety, security and educational interest of the students in Noxubee County," Cole said.  

 

However, Gilreath assured parents that they should not worry about the start of the school year. 

 

"Your kids are in good hands in our schools," Gilreath said. "We haven't really done anything but try to get prepared for a safe and orderly start. My goal is to make sure we're off to a good start. You can have no worries about having a teacher in the classroom."  

 

Broadnax announced he has a list of questions from the community. However, he will address all concerns starting in late August through early October after he establishes himself at NCSD. Broadnax said he will meet with each individual faculty member, speak to all students and hold meetings for parents from each individual school during that time.  

 

"When I go back to South Dakota, I'm going to take the data back and I'll be working daily with Dr. Gilreath and in constant contact with him," Broadnax said. "I can't do anything unless I listen to you. I'm going to listen first and then I'm going to learn from you."  

 

Broadnax said gradual changes will be made within the district to increase its success, including creating a task force to help implement a district strategic plan.  

 

"Our administrators will be on this task force, some community members and parents, to help me make decisions in the best interest of students," Broadnax said. "We will start strategic planning. We got to have a vision in place. All of us have to work together to come up with a common theme and vision for the school district." 

 

Broadnax expressed that success within the district depends on community, parent and teacher involvement with all schools.  

 

"Students will only do things for you, if you care about them," Broadnax said. "All students can learn, if they have the right tools in place. I'm going to do everything I can every single day to work 110 percent for our students and our county and our school district of Noxubee County. Every day won't be sunny, but I'm going to work hard for kids."  

 

According to a MDE press release, the permanent-interim superintendent will work toward correcting the accreditation violations and will remain until the district achieves a C accountability rating for five years. Accountability scores are largely based on state testing and awarded to each district at the end of the school year. NCSD has received an F rating for the past two years. The Associated Press previously reported MDE nearly took over NCSD last year. Leflore County and Tunica County districts are also currently under state control. MDE declared NCSD as a District of Transformation, meaning MDE will act as a liaison between the state and the district during the district's state of emergency.  

 

During the course of the Broadnax's speech, applause erupted from the crowd numerous times. Parents and teachers, on a large scale, seemed excited with Broadnax's arrival and strategies for the district. Katherine Sherrod, a NCSD teacher's assistant and parent, said the positive changes in the district are within reach. 

 

"I'm very excited," Sherrod said. "(Broadnax) seems like he's determined to come in and turn everything around and I'm proud of that. Not only talk it, he's going to walk it. I have faith in him."

 

 

 

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