Tupelo School Board 12.09.14

Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting has begun. Sorry I’m late in getting to this blog post. I arrived to a standing-room crowd due to several recognitions. Those recognitions have been made, the room has somewhat cleared and I now have a seat.

As soon as I have a moment, I’ll update on what has already happened.

All five board members are present.

The school district just announced a new partnership with Ole Miss-Tupelo. It will provide TPSD employees with scholarships to receive a four-year degree from Ole Miss Tupelo. The scholarship is $750 per semester for four semesters, or $3,000 total. It can be for those who want to complete a 4-year degree or who want to get a 4-year-degree in a different field. UM-Tupelo Executive Director Derek Markley was here for the presentation.

Right now, assistant superintendent Eddie Peasant, Tupelo Middle Principal Kristy Luse and Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris will make a presentation about a college a career transition plan the district is developing.

Often, Peasant said, conversations about what students will be “when they grow up” don’t occur until 11th grade. They are trying to start that earlier, he said, exposing students in sixth grade to what their interests might be and counseling them to a path to get there.

Peasant said they will have presidents and speakers from business and industry make presentations, speak about their businesses and make video presentations.

They will incorporate training on financial literacy, etiquette, resume building. They will train students on the importance of creating eligibility for scholarships – reminding them that the classes they take in 9th and 10th grade will be viewed on scholarship applications.

They will incorporate the MDE’s career pathways program and its iCAP. That program starts in sixth grade and goes through the middle school and high school.

They will expand dual enrollment and dual credit openings. As they look to start ROTC, Peasant said they are looking to partner with ICC for a program along those lines.

Career clusters: MDE has a system of 16 national clusters that TPSD has adopted. “As we match it to our area, there may be some we don’t put a lot of focus on because it is not strong in our area or there may be some clusters we add because it is big in our community,” Peasant said. For example, in Biloxi they added a cluster for marine sciences.

Peasant: We will add and delete clusters as we need. For example human services cluster includes early childhood education and also would include Tupelo High’s new teacher academy.

Luse will now discuss things at the middle school. iCAP is the individual career and academic plan. “In seventh and eighth grade, you may not know what you want to do, but you know what you are interested in.”

Begin to identify those interests in sixth-grade in technology programs. Students are introduced in 6th, 7th and 8th grade.

8th graders will take the iCAP survey. In 6th grade, they get an intro, field trip to ICC and start get those gears working, Luse said. They are trying to get a tour to Ole Miss in 7th grade. They also will reintroduce the career fair at the middle school. The idea is we are producing students who want to know what the jobs look like when they get to the professional world.

They are working to get business and industry speakers into the classroom, using junior achievement.

In 8th grade, they will have a tour of Mississippi State. They will take the iCAP survey. If those results are different than what the student thinks they want, they will work with teachers and counselors about possibilities.

Peasant: Someone will bring a career expo to Tupelo (I didn’t catch whom). Business and industry come in and have presentation set up for 8th grade students to visit and tour and speak with industry people in our area directly. They focus on having something from their business for students to touch and see. One example is on the Coast the Beau Rivage is one of the first you see when you walk int the door. They have people from housekeeping and food industry. Had an actual bed and showing students how they do their housekeeping there. It exposes students to all of the different opporutities.

For Toyota, there is so much for involved than building cars – a food industry, health industry, etc.

They discussed a date in October when 8th graders would get opportunity for the career expo.

Now Harris will speak about the plan at the high school level. 9th grade is one of the most vulnerable years in K-12, he said. When students enter 9th grade, they kind of know which direction they want to go for course selection but they will make sure they are working with the students’ iCAP.

Harris: We want every student to go to college who wants to go to college but there are a lot of students who want to go straight to the workforce and we want them to know what is out there.

Two staff members are in Jackson attending a college and career readiness training.

Personal finance and financial literacy course will be added in 10th grade. That is a good year to have it, he said. Students understand how a credit card works, that it is not free money. Help students understand the cost of college. Have speakers, get out to local businesses and industries.

ACT is critical for sophomores for dual enrollment because it requires certain scores to enroll. Need to promote the value of dual enrollment, ability to earn college credit in high school.

Looking to allow ACT prep to be taught to every sophomore, would be a great benefit to all students, Harris said.

College Night at THS will help juniors and seniors.

They will promote resume building, he said. Scholarship applications. Counsel students on choosing a college – do I want to go away, do I want a 2-year or a 4-year. Help students understand high school classes that will help with career choices.

Culmination project, making sure we are starting to build resume and also do community service during junior year.

They’ve discussed getting recent graduates back to provide insight.

Want to be more intentional about helping students understand financial aid and grants that are available. Work on interview etiquette, update resume and discuss etiquette.

Peasant: There has been some mention of the video campaign. Communications department is working on creating videos with business and industry people where they will present information on the video they can use for students to view in eighth-grade and also at other points when relevant. Might help tell direction a student wants to go. They are creating those this spring and hope to have a library of videos our teachers will be able to share with the students.

Looking to partially implement the plan this spring with some of the college visits. A lot of these things are already in place, Peasant said, but the purpose of this is to have a plan that is in place for all students.

We will continue development of this, and it will be developed over next several years before there is one solid concrete plan, Peasant said.

They are working on projected annual cost. It will depend on what they get from partners and how able to arrange some things, he said. It will cost for the college visits, about $6,000 or $6,5000 for all three grade levels, transporting 550 students or so to those three institutions.

Board member Joe Babb: In the 9th grade, what opportunity is there for students to specialize?

Harris: It is like freshman year in college, you will take standard core courses but you can gear some electives toward that. And as you get to upper level courses, you can gear some of those to what you want. There is some flexibility, mostly for your electives. It also depends on any credits they take with them from the middle school.

Luse: They have fine arts options that allow them to choose. Diversity of fine arts and electives and the advanced and some of the online courses give them a taste for what they will encounter when they get to the high school.

Peasant: If a student shows an interest in engineering, they will be encouraged to be on the advanced track in 8th grade so they can take calculus as a senior. If not, that will put you behind when you are a senior.

Harris: Certain courses we have set a per-requisite to ensure some student success.

Board President Rob Hudson: Guidance counselor seems to be key person in all of this, so we need to define the number of minutes they truly need not only to start this but also to continue it. There will probably be some extra cost there. I think how my experience would have been different as a parent because I don’t know all of the course options but a conversation between my child and guidance counselor could have helped.

Every student needs this guidance, he said. You have some who are doing it on their own or who have no guidance at home.

Peasant: There is guidance in some situation where parent guides child in direction of their own career but maybe not where the child’s interest is.

Hudson: We need to look at manpower required to sustain this.

Board member Eddie Prather: We need to engage parents and the community in this whole process.

Peasant: Talked about putting whole plan out there so parents know what to expect each year, can be familiar with entire plan.

Board member Sherry Davis: One observation, there are a lot of great scholarships but a lot of students don’t understand what they need to do to keep the scholarship – go to class and maintain a certain course load and number of hours. Many students struggle with a comprehensive test and how to study for it – preparing them for that would be good.

It is overwhelming for counselors to help every student on a career path. At ICC, we are all advisers – have 20 to 25 students – and we are responsible for making sure they are staying on their path, taking courses they need.

Babb: One thing I would say is, thinking about my kids, even at 18 you get to college and it is a lot to ask of a student to pick a job you will do the rest of your life. Do you have an opportunity to change your mind? These are young kids and they need to be exposed to a lot that is out there. They don’t need to be pigeon-holed.

Peasant: That is absolutely important and like you we do understand students do change. Although I believe a lot of that happens when students haven’t gone through a plan like this to develop their interests and plans, that does happen and students are not locked into anything on this plan. It is recommended based on their iCAP and what they have shown. They are not locked in. The hope is we have fewer students who are getting to the college level and deciding that is not what I’m interested in.

Superintendent Gearl Loden: This would not be possible without partners like CREATE and CDF. Dr. Peasant, Jason Harris and Dr. Luse have dreamed about future staff. WIth funding levels we have, looking at doing a great job with what we have and to dream for the future about what we would do with more funding.


1:24 p.m.

Early Childhood Education Center Principal Anita Buchanan will provide an update on ECEC

227 students, 193 in pre-K and 34 in special education classrooms. 27 English Language Learners and one child classified as homeless

This year, about 67-percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. That is typical to other years.

They use OWL, Opening the World of Learning, for their curriculum/ screener. Students have made gains on how many letters they now. At beginning for year 96 children knew fewer than 7 letters. They are really growing the children and making gains with them, she said.

They work hard to teach rhyming. They have made gains there too, she said.

Math skills. At first 15 children proficient in rote counting. Now 174 proficient, means they can count above 10. 171 children entered the building only able to count to 2.

They have 94-percent parent participating. 94 parents have come in for academic based programs either in classroom or through workshops.

51 families have come in to check out materials through early beginnings resource center.

Mississippi Kindergarten Readiness Test. 530 means ready for K. ECEC students were 559.

They utilize community resources: bring in book mobile, fire department, police department.

They took a field trip to the Gum Tree Museum of Arts. They hope to send more in the spring.

Raised $5,000 through St. Jude’s Trike a thon.

Hudson: Asks when the first OWL assessment took place. Buchanan said it was in the first two weeks of school. So they have numbers from day 1 and they track it as the year progresses.

Hudson: It will be interesting to see their growth with each monitoring.

Babb: As if they can break down data for children who did not attend ECEC to what program they attended.

They have 10 classrooms this year, have a long waiting list. They hope to add one or two more classrooms next year, would add spots for about 40 children. Would be about $75,000 in cost (if I heard that right).

1:35 p.m.

Up next is a marketing update.

Community liaison Mary Ann Plasencia: They have had several community presentations. Jim Ingram Leadership Academy met at the high school for a presentation. That is a great opportunity to give information to a group of emerging leaders in our community, she said.

They made presentations at the MAE forum at city hall and gifted conference was held in Tupelo for first time in 10-12 years. They have made some church presentations, gone on radio talk shows. Amy Ferguson took questions on Common Core on 92 Jamz for about an hour with Charles Penson. They will often go to Craig Horton with TeleSouth to promote school events.

They have had 40 suggestions in online suggestion box between July and November. Both staff and parent suggestions. Majority are anonymous.

Advisory councils are meeting. Parent and Teacher advisory councils. School-based community advisory councils also are meeting. They address several issues and allow principal and leadership team to get a pulse of what is being heard in the community. It gives the community easy access to the leadership at the school.

PTO meetings happen on a regular basis at all schools. Added a PTO at early childhood center. Had school open houses in August.

Several surveys have been administered this year. In January, plan to put a summary of those results on the website and in electronic newsletters – information of how many responded and executive summary of response per question.

Administered ELL, ongoing parent exit surveys, federal programs teacher needs assessment, professional learning communities teacher survey, special education parent survey, survey on back-to-school procedures.

Dr. Eddie Moore is working with teachers to increase grants submitted to AEE.

New partners to showcase what students are doing. Internal clinic (missed the full name) is showcasing student art work, one different school each semester. They are in some of the exam rooms. Ivansic Pediatric Clinic also approached them about showcasing student art work.

Parkway is working with the city and the Natchez Trace to expose students to being good environmental citizens.

Next week, will bring in an artist to spend day with kids at Joyner, celebrate healing from the tornado.

Native Son farms is providing locally-grown food in elementary school cafeterias.

Annabeth Wyatt will show the district’s video campaign.

There is a commercial show at the Malco movie theater.

10 screens, 50 adds per day, add to 15,000 TPSD ads shown there per month…Theater averages 28,000 ticket sales per month,

Partnership with WTVA, TPSD at a Glance show, produced by broadcast class. They’ve also had success with online broadcasts of athletic events.

Brand new project called TPSD Connects You. Do interviews each month with a student, community person and business person. Online videos, use in print ads and in billboard presentations.

Wyatt is now presenting a new phone message that plays while someone is on hold on the phone.

Wyatt will speak about the district’s social media presence. Twitter account has 2,097 followers and 1,752 Tweets. That is just the official district account – in addition every school and many clubs have accounts.

District has posted 27 videos since July and has had 5,870 hits on its YouTube channel. Keep district videos on there and WTHS puts its broadcast on there.

Kay Bishop is speaking about posters they’ve placed around the district and on buses. Importance of hand washing, stop bullying, introducing the district’s app.

10 sponsors pledged over $700,000 to the blue turf. Had a ribbon cutting for them at the beginning of the year.

Schools have new signs proclaiming their accountability ranking.

Last year, 5,930 students received an honor roll sign of 65 percent of student body. This year for first 9 weeks, 37 percent of student body were on honor roll (I think I got that number right).

They held a reception for retirees last month.

United Way campaign: 43 percent increase in donations this year. Total of $23,919.93. Last year it was $16,717.19

Billboards: on digital billboard and North Gloster. Have magazine ads, newspaper ads. Loden writes an editorial in the Daily Journal.

Newspaper mentions: 138 times in newspapers in October throughout the state. November 156 times.

1,400 people have downloaded the district’s app.

They have 3,403 people signed up for TPSD Communicator e-newsletter.

2:02 p.m.

Now Athletic Director Andy Schoggin will present an update on the athletic department.

Said they want to be fiscally responsible. Talking about renovation at the high school – pledges and amount collected. They’ve collected 103 percent of yearly projected revenue.

Two championships. Nov. 1 hosted MHSAA swim championship in new facility. It was a great partnership with the city, he said. Boys were first, girls were second and several records were set. Great day with a lot of work, Schoggin said. It was great to highlight our city.

Nov. 8, cross country championships were in Clinton. Boys were second but had overall individual champion. Girls were third (If I heard that right).

At the high school level, they offer every sport except one, dance team. They could offer it and have considerable participation, he said. To do so, they would need to recognize it and provide a supplement. He thinks they would have a strong team if they offer it.

2:07 p.m.

Next presentation is on project based learning environment from a Texas School visit.Visit was to school in Belton, Texas. Belton New Tech School and South Belton Middle School.

Niki Peel: Best part is school culture. It is truly an individualized student-centered approach, she said. There is a lot of project-based learning.

Projects are assigned as individuals and groups in content areas and cross curricula, she said. All of their lessons are project-based learning foundation to specific learning outcomes.

Holly Gray: It is not a traditional A,B,C,D grade. They consider content knowledge, professional ethics, innovation, written communication and oral presentation. They are graded on how creative they are with their projects.

The middle school is one of three middle schools in the district. Its environment is more traditional but it is 1-to-1 laptop/ tablet school. They do introduce some project based learning. One project per term.

Gray: Classrooms felt more like work rooms or board rooms.

Peel: The classrooms are enclosed in glass. They have “collab” or collaboration rooms. With Common Core and college and career readiness, preparing our students for this global community, we have to explore innovative strategies.

Peel: May be able to use some of these ideas in Tupelo. Saw some authentic learning that will help the students.

The project-based high school has 125 students per grade level. It is first come, first served.

District can serve both type of students. One high school is new tech and one is traditional high school. They work together with shuttles. Band, football team, choir, shuttle kids back and forth. Some spend parts of the day on both traditional and new tech campuses.

New tech campus had no desks. Students were around tables. Looked like a board room.

Peel said the next step is exploring the idea of project-based learning. It can help Tupelo and our students, she said.

Gray: There is a class there working on 3D printing and coding. They had a 3D printer had purchased for $1,200 and one they had built for $300.

2:21 p.m.

Rachel Murphree will present the ad valorem report. They have collected 8.33 percent of their debt request, which is comparable to last year for this time. For operations, 9.45 percent of request. Also comparable to this time last year. Most tax collection money flows in during January, February and March.

2:23 p.m.

Board approves consent agenda.

2:24 p.m.

Murphree will speak about superintendent’s report. It includes contractual agreements, donations, permission to submit grants, permission to advertise for an RFP on e-Rate items, deletion on assets, transfer report, overnight field trip requests and the memorandum of understanding with Ole Miss-Tupelo for the scholarships for staff members.

Board approves docket of claims. Also approves financial reports including bank reconciliation, statement of revenue expenditures, cash flow statements and consolidated fund balance sheet.


2:31 p.m.

Personnel director Jim Turner will make the personnel report.

Includes a new job description required for reorganization in the finance department.

Turner: Some special projects will be created and ongoing in the department. A position was held by an employee who left last month and some of their duties will be added to this position. No increase in the number of employees. No new funds are created for this because of revision of the duties, Turner said.

Position is finance director’s administrative assistant.


District had five new National Board Certified teachers. That brings the number of NBCTs to 89, Turner said, (I think it was 89. It was 89 or 85).

They have one employee who has decided they don’t want to return to employment after Christmas break. Board will vote to have that person’s license revoked for one year for abandonment of contract.

Board approves licensed staff recommendations.

Board approves second reading of concussion and return to play policy.

Board approves a request for an extension for the 2014 audit.

Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell will speak about a draft calendar for the 2015-16 school year. Students would report Aug. 3. This is just a draft, will be tweaked before it is ultimately approved. Staff would report in late July.

Loden said that Tupelo may be one of the early districts to start but that he believes most districts will start within three or four days of each other. They will compare drafts with other districts in January.

Calendar will probably be approved in February.

Loden: Semester is nearly over. Doing testing now. Last day for students in the 18th. Break from Dec. 19 to Jan. 2. Will be a quick specially-called meeting on Dec. 18 at 11:30 to approve a few personnel moves.

At January meeting, will have update on athletic GPAs and administrator of the year.

2:58 p.m.

Board will go into executive session.