Aberdeen School District braces for a fresh start with new school year

By Ray Van Dusen/Monroe Journal

ABERDEEN — In retrospect, last semester was a timeline for a steady domino effect for the Aberdeen School District. The termination of former superintendent Chester Leigh last December raised a red flag high enough for a Mississippi Department of Education visit.

A two-week audit of the district immediately followed later uncovering violations of 31 of 37 state mandated accreditation standards. The school board was dismantled and the MDE placed the school under conservatorship weeks shy of graduation.

Although the ASD was marred with controversy throughout this past school year, test scores increased, which granted an upgrade from the At Risk of Failing rating to Academic Watch.

With a new school year days away from beginning comes a new beginning for the district as a whole. Since taking the helm of the ASD, conservator Bob Strebeck has been met with positive reinforcement from the public.

Throughout summer vacation, Strebeck’s monthly agenda has predominately dealt with policy and personnel items. The policies aren’t that much different from the usual, but the personnel is vital in restocking classrooms with educators to help the district’s upward climb.

“What we had before were several teachers who were teaching subjects outside of their area of expertise. The principals have made their recommendations for highly qualified educators with licenses in hand and that’s who we hired,” Strebeck said.

A direct pick of Strebeck’s is Aberdeen High School’s new principal Demond Radcliff. Radcliff and Strebeck worked together in two school districts taken over by the state and left them with Successful ratings.

“He understands my expectations and has high expectations of his staff just the same. He has the ability to communicate with parents, students and the community and will be a good fit for the high school,” Strebeck said.

As far as expectations go, holding steady is mandatory by Strebeck’s standards.

“We’ve got to maintain what we’ve already accomplished so we can’t move in the opposite direction in our rankings. Everybody, from the teacher to the teacher assistant to the principal and the central office to the conservator, will be held accountable for the students’ performance,” Strebeck said.

The cross country and soccer programs were suspended in July for the upcoming school year, the Aberdeen Learning Center was moved to AHS and the district’s allied health classes have been consolidated with the county’s vo-tech as cost-saving measurements to remedy the budget shortfall of the district.

“We have to monitor everything used for expenditures and evaluate the need of purchases to eliminate excess spending to come under control of our finances. Any future cuts we make will not prevent the students from receiving a quality education. There may be more cuts after this year, but as far as sports go, they must function to support themselves,” Strebeck said.

As next Monday marks the beginning of the school year, the past few weeks have partly been comprised of fine-tuning the staff and student handbooks.

“The policies aren’t that much different. The difference this year will be that we enforce these policies. The end result may take longer, but people should immediately notice a change in behavior, a change in how the students are treated in a professional manner and how we do business,” Strebeck said.