Schools tour helps district leaders gauge progress

March 27, 2013 10:01:49 AM

Carl Smith - [email protected]


Starkville School District officials saw first-hand Tuesday how investments in technology and teachers are paying off in the district. 


The five-member school board, SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway and assistant superintendents Jody Woodrum and Toriano Holloway toured four district schools Tuesday - Henderson Intermediate, Overstreet School, Sudduth Elementary and Ward Stewart Elementary - as part of a yearly visit to see new teachers and initiatives in action. 


The group is scheduled to visit Armstrong Middle School, Millsaps Career and Technology Center and Starkville High Thursday. 


Last year, the school board approved several new teaching, technology and assessment initiatives that officials hope will improve district performance. The district also hired Woodrum, a former Bulloch County, Ga. school administrator and professional development manager with Scientific Learning, in October as SSD's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction. 


At the time of her hire, officials cited Woodrum's experience with incoming district programs, including Measure of Academic Progress (MAP) testing, Compass Odyssey and Scientific Learning's Fast ForWord, as an intangible benefit for the district and its attempts to accelerate academic growth. 


Board members started their tour at 8 a.m. and briefly visited numerous classrooms while instructors continued with their lessons. The group even had lunch together at the Henderson-Ward Stewart Cafeteria.  


"Being away from the younger grade levels and those schools, you don't really get a sense of how things are unless you see it firsthand. Going back into those classrooms, I wanted to sit down and be indulged on how they're teaching our children," Board President Eddie Myles said. "At the end of the tour, I think every board member came out of those classes just witnessing the investment we've made. It's truly a great thing." 


"I think this was the board's first time to see some of these programs for themselves," Holloway said. "Students were engaged and focused, and learning was on track. The big difference with technology is every child is engaged. There's no misbehaving, and they're involved in the lesson and answering questions. 


"We hope to see the payoff come test time," he added. 


Myles even noticed the smaller technology improvements made by the district. Many elementary teachers utilize in-class microphones to ensure every student fully hears and understands their lectures. 


"Knowing how these children are taught and what they are taught, I do not see how we can fail in the future. It's very exciting," Myles said. "We're developing a type of atmosphere where all of our students are united and working together in an extreme learning environment. I can't understand an individual who says they do not want their children attending public schools if they've never set foot in ours and seen what we do. I feel bad for those individuals."

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch