CHRIS KIEFFER: Time to begin another school year

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

Welcome back. It’s August in Mississippi, and school is back in full swing. That means the Daily Journal has ended its summer heat series and brought back the education page in its regular Monday slot.
Not that the summer heat is gone. Perhaps it is appropriate that the first education page of the year features a heat tile from a space shuttle.
This year figures to be another big one in Northeast Mississippi schools. Results from last spring’s state tests were recently released, and school rankings will be out in about a month.
Last fall, Northeast Mississippi had six schools earn a ranking of Star, the highest in Mississippi’s accountability model. We’ll soon learn if any more schools earned that this year.
Meanwhile, the Tupelo School District continues its transition from last year’s turmoil. Interim Superintendent David Meadows has implemented his “Moving Forward Together” plan with a focus on reaffirming teachers and principals, recommitting to safe schools, re-establishing a focus on student achievement and re-communicating the recommendations of the district’s curriculum audit.
As the year progresses, the district’s search for its next superintendent will accelerate. The school board has said meetings with stakeholders will be held once the first 20 days of the school year have been completed.
Leadership of the Lee County School District is also on the line as incumbent Superintendent Mike Scott and Assistant Superintendent Jimmy Weeks meet in the Nov. 8 general election.
That district also will learn soon whether Saltillo High School will be named a national Blue Ribbon School.
Personally, the year will be a different one for me. For my first two years at the Daily Journal, I’ve had an extended commute while my wife served as a band director at Southaven.
Deanna recently took a job as Tupelo Middle School’s band director. It means that I will no longer be reporting on the Tupelo band program (the program will still get its due coverage, but someone else at the Journal will handle it). It also means we will finally be able to move to town.
Meanwhile, I will continue my quest to provide informative coverage on Northeast Mississippi’s schools: highlighting their achievements, shining a light on their challenges, sharing with you their news and providing you a glimpse inside their schoolhouses.
May I live up to the quality of journalism you deserve.
The 2011-12 school year is upon us. Here is to hoping for a great year for Northeast Mississippi’s students, educators, parents and community members.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com