School leaders learn from summer conference

8Y2Q_djournal_education_school_bus_buses_stockBy Chris Kieffer
Daily Journal

TUPELO – Northeast Mississippi administrators have tweaked schedules, added literacy initiatives and rewarded good student behavior following a conference many attended during the summer.

Money from the Toyota Educational Endowment Fund sent 32 administrators from Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties to the Model Schools Conference in Washington during the first week of July. A group gathered at the CREATE Foundation on Monday to debrief from the conference and outline changes they’ve made from what they learned.

The fund is a $50 million endowment created by Toyota to enhance education in the three counties that teamed up to attract the company to Blue Springs. The conference features presentations by some of the nation’s highest-performing schools.

Many of the administrators said they were particularly inspired by the stories they heard about Brockton High School in Massachusetts, which overcame a history of poor test scores to become a top-performing school.

“What I liked is it was so simple, and it could be adapted to every level,” said East Union Assistant Principal Sara Johnson.

Inspired by a method that worked well for Brockton, East Union has created a set of test-taking strategies that will consistently be used throughout the K-12 school. It will create a common language and keep everyone on the same page, Johnson said.

The Nettleton School District was sparked by the conference to implement a new reading initiative, and Baldwyn High School to add a “Bearcat period” to its day. The 30-minute block gives students who have failed at least one of their state tests time for tutoring. It also allows other students to get tutoring from their teachers, to have social time or to attend various meetings.

“It can be used for so much and doesn’t take away from instructional time,” Principal Adam Lindsey said.

New Albany Elementary began a common book study last year, inspired by something Principal Windy Faulkner heard during the Model Schools Conference. The teachers all read the same book, and it led to a theme at the school.

Faulkner wants to implement more of the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports she learned about at this summer’s conference. “I really want to focus on rewarding students for their good behavior,” she said.

chris.kieffer@journalinc.com