City teachers hear state‘s top school leader

(Dr. Susan Purser with Dr. Henry Johnson)

The state superintendent of education told some 350 staff and teaches in the Pontotoc City Schools Monday that when school districts Plateau “you raise the bar.”

Dr. Henry Johnson told the second semester teacher assembly that “it is not impossible to have higher achievement no matter where you are.”

Johnson made the comments knowing he was speaking to one of the state’s highest achieving school districts over the last five years.

He said students and faculties “find ways to meet goals” no matter how high those goals are.

Johnson reminded the teachers that the celebration of the business of education was to keep the “product” in mind — “the value we add to students year-after-year.

“What we do really matters. It makes a difference to students.”

The state’s top school leader said he was reminded recently by a statement from the National Teacher of the Year, who is a retired military officer, “that the highest form of patriotism is teaching.”

He recalled that Thomas Jefferson once said that education’s highest goals was “to train citizens to participate in a Democracy.”

Johnson said in a private interview with The Progress he “has the highest hopes the Legislature will make education its top priority again this year and “provide full funding” for Mississippi schools.

Johnson, an Alabama native, became the state superintendent of education in Mississippi during the summer.

He said “Mississippi education is on the right track. There are certain things we have to do, but the foundation has been laid if w just have the will to continue.

“I think Mississippi has an opportunity to have some significant improvements compared to other states in the region and nation.”

Funding of the Mississippi Adequate Eduction Program (MAEP) remains one of the state’s greatest needs, he told The Progress.

Early funding of the MAEP helps “local school officials plan better,” he explained.

Last year the Mississippi Legislature put education first on its priority list, and appropriated money for state schools before moving on with its normal agenda.

He also wants “to continue with an aggressive accountability program to monitor students progress and fulfill our contract with the public.”

Johnson said it was also true that school facilities in Mississippi “also need strong attention.” he said compared to other states “we have a big challenge in getting better facilities across the state.”

“We just need to have every student in wonderful buildings and taught by an excellent teacher using a rigorous curriculum.”

He said when schools have high expectations and those are played out in actions there is good results.

“Schools,’ he added, “are no better than what a community demands. That’s not just a trite statement, I really believe that.

“Just look where there is a strong desire in the community from the public for good schools. That’s clearly the desire in Pontotoc. People just demand good schools and you get them.”

He said the state school board had already mapped out goals for Mississippi education including the implementation of this accountability program and to continue to show improvement in student learning.