By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – While Mississippi mulls emulating educational ideas from Florida, a team of Tupelo school administrators used spring break to get a firsthand look.
Eight representatives from the Tupelo school district visited the Santa Rosa County School District on the western Florida panhandle to speak with educators there about the so-called “Florida model.”
Mississippi lawmakers have recently debated reading initiatives, school choice and early education, based at least in part on ideas from the Sunshine State. Mississippi’s Department of Education also is developing a new system of grading schools expected to borrow from Florida’s accountability model, which uses ACT scores, graduation rates, dual enrollment and Advanced Placement results in measuring high schools.
“We wanted to go to a good district in Florida that was doing well on the accountability model and learn from them,” said Tupelo Executive Director of Curriculum Leigh Mobley.
Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden met Santa Rosa Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick during a conference in the fall and was invited to visit the district, which is among the top performers in the state.
“You can study it, but it is nice getting to talk to individuals living it every day,” Loden said. “It was the best workshop I’ve been to in a long time.”
Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Britton, Special Education Director Mary Ruth Wright, Response to Intervention Administrator Amy Ferguson and Instructional Technology Specialist Kenneth Griswold joined Loden and Mobley, as did Tupelo High School Principal Jason Harris and Assistant Principal Art Dobbs. They spent two days in the 25,500-student district.
The team divided into smaller groups to study such topics such as the high school accountability model, professional development, the use of technology and pre-kindergarten, among other items.
“I felt like we have a good game plan as we prepare for the transition,” Harris said. “It made me appreciate my staff and how hard they work.”
Britton, who visited Santa Rosa’s pre-kindergarten programs, said they were similar to Tupelo’s Early Childhood Education Center. Mobley liked the way the district used model classrooms to train teachers on new initiatives.
“It was fabulous information,” said Mobley. “They were very open and spent a lot of time with us.”