Tupelo School Board 02.012.13

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. All five board members are present.

The board will also meet tonight at 5 p.m. at Parkway Elementary. It will discuss the agenda at this noon meeting, but will not vote until tonight’s meeting.

Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed is reading a proclamation from Gov. Phil Bryant proclaiming this as Mississippi School Board week. It urges all citizens to recognize local school board member for their work in supporting a strong school system.

Reed said he is delighted to read the proclamation on behalf of Tupelo’s 37,000 citizens.

Reed: “It is a serious obligation and you having agreed to do it are truly extending your territory of influence not only in the community but across the state….Your mind, joy, compassion and commitment are transferred to these students and these teachers….Your service is, in my opinion, the single most important service a citizen can give to his or her community.”

Reed presents each school board member with a key to the city of Tupelo.

Reed: “As I’ve said publicly, the whole city has been celebrating with you and your accomplishments on (the district’s High Performing ranking)…Every single person made a contribution to that, and their contribution was important.”

Reed also gives a key to Supt. Gearl Loden. Loden said it is recognition for the hard work of all district employees.

Thomas Street Principal Kay Collins is speaking of appreciation to the school board.In honor of Mardi Gras, Collins notes that being a school board member can make you feel ill as a Hornet, but you are really a Saint. (She didn’t say anything about the Zephyrs).

Other principals are now following: Lawndales’ Brock English and Lawhon’s Corlis Curry.

Loden thanks board member Amy Heyer for the time she has dedicated to the district and the hours she’s given. Her five-year term on the board will be ending shortly. Unless her term is extended, this will be her final meeting. Her replacement has not yet been appointed.

Heyer: “I have to say it has been the greatest honor and privilege of all to serve the children of Tupelo.”

12:28 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Kim Britton will speak about the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents convention.

She said it was powerful to speak with superintendents from throughout the state and to learn from them. She said the most memorable sessions were about transitions to the Common Core and to a new state accountability model. Participants also heard updates about new legislation.

12:29 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell is speaking about training the district is doing for its assistant principals. They’ve worked with Haiku to create to an online discussion board to allow them to share resources.

Ezell said they’ve had a couple of sessions with Wanda Dean from Ole Miss and have one scheduled with former State Superintendent Tom Burnham.

Eleven assistant principals are participating, Ezell said. The idea is to prepare them to one day lead schools.

12:31 p.m.

Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon is speaking about seniors in danger of not graduating because they had not passed the state Subject Area Tests.

The district has 61 seniors who have not passed one of the five tests: Algebra, English 2, English 2 writing, U.S. history and biology. Last year at this point, the number was 112.

He said the block schedule has helped the district find extra time to work with the students. “We’ve tried to utilize time during the school day to help with these issue.”

Thirty students have to pass one test,  22 have two tests, seven have three tests and one has to pass four.

The largest number is the new U.S. history test. I didn’t catch that number. “That has been one of the big shifts with testing is the U.S. history.”

The school has certified subject area tutors who come twice a week for 45 minute sessions. Senors have to come during senior leave time. They also use some homeroom time.

The Kirkland Group, and expert in math and science, is leading some boot camps before the re-test dates. The district has also hosted some Saturday boot camps before the re-test dates. MDE also offered a boot camp at ICC last week.

The district is using USA Test Prep, an online process students can use at home, free of charge to the students.

Dillon: “Those are some things we are working on in-house, before school, after school, at home. Hopefully we can get that 61 down to 0.”

Dillon said school administration has divided up these students and taken them under their wing, monitoring their progress weekly.

Dillon also recognizes the efforts of Pat Head and Coach Norwood for rounding up students who need help.

Loden said former TPSD Administrator Bob Monroe is helping with history this semester.

12:40 p.m.

Now Dillon will speak of the district’s efforts on the PSAT.

The PSAT is Preliminary Scholastic Applitude Test. It is the test used to determine National Merit Scholars. It measures critical thinking, math and writing skills.

All freshmen at Tuplelo will take the PSAT. Dillon: “We’re trying to identify them at an early age to provide tutorial to them to get them to become National Merit Finalists.”

Meanwhile, pre-AP English 2 sophomores take the test and a selected number of juniors. The junior is the test used to determine National Merit.

“This year, we did offer some tutorial opportunities,” Dillon said. 72 students at one point came to one of the tutorials available before the test date.

Loden notes that Mississippi’s average score on the PSAT is above the national average.

In addition, Dillion said, THS Principal Jason Harris is talking to the principal at Madison Central about their PSAT program they offer during the school day to see if it is something Tupelo can copy.

Board member Beth Stone said she appreciates the district’s efforts to inform parents about the test and the tutorial opportunities. She also said things the district is doing in elementary schools will help foster the reasoning skills important to the tests.

“We are building a foundation here that will provide results in the future,” Stone said.

12:48 p.m.

Linda Pannell will present the financial report.

12:51 p.m.

Ezell will not present a couple of policy changes. For one, the district has to change its codes to the MSBA coding system as it goes to the MSBA’s system for storing policies.

The other is a dyslexia policy. It is a new policy based on last year’s dyslexia law that requires districts to screen kindergarten and first-grade students for dyslexia.

12:52 p.m.

Human resources director Jim Turner is presenting the personnel report.

12:54 p.m.

Loden will make his superintendent’s report. He notes the upcoming MSBA conference and the PREPS Winter Conference. At the PREPS conference, the school district and city will win an award for their partnership.

Loden said district representatives will make a visit to Santa Rosa, Fla., to talk about Common Core and the Florida model. The district is the second ranked district in Florida, he said. Loden said THS Principal Jason Harris will go because the new model will include a dramatic shift for high schools.

Loden said some changes the district is considering for next year are “bring your own device” practices and dual enrollment. They’re also preparing for changes from the new accountability model.

He said the district is busy preparing for its open houses.

12:59 p.m.

Ezell will present the district’s calendar for the 2013-14 school year.

I.E. Day will be on Aug. 1, after staff reports but before students report. With block scheduling, students will be taking Subject Area tests in December and it is a week earlier this year than last year. Because of that, the district wanted to start the school year earlier. They were able to get 79 instructional days before the Subject Area tests, she said.

There will be three weekends during Christmas break.

Prather: “Hopefully we will be able to approve that tonight so parents can begin scheduling vacation for next year.”

1:01 p.m.

Board attorney Otis Tims will present a couple of updates

Tims: “This is the last meeting this year of the school board’s calendar, which resets the first week after the first Saturday in March each year.”

During the March meeting, it will be the organizational meeting for the board. At that meeting, by policy, there are a number of things to do. If there is a newly-appointed board member (and newly appointed board members are supposed to start the first meeting in March), that member will be sworn in. Board officers will also be elected at that meeting. Policies allow, president to be elected first. Each officer serves one year or until his or her successor is elected. The policy is also stated to indicate it is a one-year term, but the president can serve consecutive one-year terms, Tims said. Should the board chose to elect the president to serve consecutive one-year terms, it can do so.

The president’s duties are to call meeting to order, conduct business, assign floor to people who want to speak. Policy says it is duty of president to protect the speaker from disturbance, Tims said. The president carries out duties typical to president of any organization, he said.

After election of president, vice president and secretary are also elected. Then the board appoints legal council for the following school year and designates individual for posting public notices for the board.

“It is just a matter of formal organization,” Tims said.

Also, at this meeting, the board adopts all policies that presently exist for the next year. Then it appoints a recording secretary and authorizes signatures for financial matters. It appoints two board members to form audit review committee.

Now Tims will speak about some legislative issues.

“This year is a big year for education, there are a lot of things under consideration….everything from charter schools to a couple of things, the house yesterday passed governor’s reading bill which also raises admission requirements to schools of education and has a plan for performance-based pay.”


He notes that Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, also added a measure for a $5,000 teacher pay raise, but that he does not know if that will remain in the bill. Tims said House also passed a bill allowing Districts of Innovation.


“It is complicated, but it allows certain districts to be freed a little bit of some of the regulations of the Mississippi Department of Education, it allows some flexibility districts have not had before to create some innovative programs.”


Tims said much of this legislation may fall by the wayside during the next two weeks.


Tims notes the legislation is considering a third-grade literacy proposal that every child must be reading on grade level by end of third grade. He said there are a number of bills concerning school governance.


There are several measures to appoint presently elected superintendents of education.


Tims: One issue that could effect you directly, there is a House Bill that calls for the election of school board members. It would move all of the elections of school board members, would serve a 4-year term with everyone elected in the same year.


The House bill would not apply to municipal school districts, but the Senate bill would, Tims said.


He said he has know idea what will happen with all of the current bills and that the next year will tell much.


Among the critcisms I have encountered is the concept that the development and training of school board members you presently attain though rolling membership, this has the potential for everyone to be elected at the same time and you could get a whole new board from year to year.


The only thing I can run across been argued in favor of applying this to municipal school districts is it makes them like everyone else.


1:20 p.m.

The board goes into temporary executive session to discussion personnel and litigation