Two districts receive probationary accreditation

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

SECOND UPDATE: The violations and audit occurred before Todd English began as Booneville’s superintendent.
English said that based on the information he had received, he was under the impression that it involved teacher days rather than student days. Regardless, he said, the district intends to have both teacher and student days correct this year and for the probation status to be lifted.

UPDATE: Paula Vanderford, director of the MDE Office of Accreditation, said that Booneville’s violation did not result from missed teacher days but came because the MDE could only find a record of students attending school for 179 days last year, instead of the 180 required by law. She also said Booneville was cited for falsely reporting to the MDE how many days students had attended.
Booneville Superintendent Todd English could not be immediately reached for comment. English was not superintendent last year when the violation occurred.

Two Northeast Mississippi School Districts recently received a probationary accreditation status from the Mississippi Department of Education.
Booneville and Okolona were among 13 districts in the state to receive probation status, which results from a deficiency in one or more of the 37 Mississippi Public School Accountability Standards of 2010. The status does not carry any sanctions or fines but indicates that the district must take corrective action to address its deficiency.
Student diplomas still carry their full weight.
Booneville was given probation because its teachers worked 186 days last year, instead of the 187 days required by the state, Booneville superintendent Todd English said.
“We thought the teacher days were made up,” English said. “It was an error … It wasn’t anything to do with testing or students.”
English, in his first year as the district’s superintendent, said the problem occurred because of a miscommunication. The issue happened after students missed several days of school because of winter weather. Students were also off for two days when the basketball team reached the state tournament.
Students did eventually make up all 180 days as required by law, but teachers fell one day short of the seven additional days they are required to work, English said.
Okolona has two standards it must correct. One involves building a science lab at the high school and the other involves facility issues like having more exit signs and doing some repainting, district Conservator Mike Vinson said.
This is the fourth consecutive year that the district has been on probationary status, but it has made large strides since being taken over by the state in February 2010. At that time, the district needed to correct 33 standards.
Vinson said these last two had been the hardest to correct because they required additional money. Work is currently being done to address both standards, he said.
English said he has been working closely with the state’s accreditation commission to make sure Booneville’s issue is corrected and that it does not occur again. He said if students and teachers attend the required number of days this year, the probation status will be removed at the end of the year.
Other districts with a probation accreditation status were Drew, Hazlehurst City, Hinds County, Indianola, Jackson Public, Jefferson Davis County, Kemper County, Moss Point, North Panola, Sunflower County and Tate County.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com