By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Oktibbeha County School District Board of Directors vowed to hold itself and school administrators responsible from now on for the district’s state test scores and rankings.
Board member Curtis Snell told the board that it could no longer operate with a “business as usual” attitude. He acknowledged that the board, Superintendent James Covington and the school administrators had “dropped the ball,” and needed to start doing things differently immediately.
“One of the biggest things we have to do as a board is put ourselves on an improvement plan. We’re going to have to put our superintendent on an improvement plan — which he has already done — but we as a board, because we represent the people, want to make sure that we do our job,” Snell said. “We don’t take this thing lightly. Anytime we have students that are not getting what they need, then someone is at fault. We can’t blame the children. We are at fault. We have got to take ownership.”
Of the four schools in the district, West Oktibbeha County Elementary is the only school that is listed as successful. East Oktibbeha County Elementary and West Oktibbeha County High School are both ranked as low performing, while East Oktibbeha County High School is ranked as failing.
The school board plans to have a community meeting at each school to address the issues that face the district, mainly state test scores.
“We want to invite the parents, invite the community, invite all stakeholders and explain all the procedures for the test taking,” Snell said. “Our main issue is test scores. We don’t feel like our test scores reflect our children’s true ability so we need to do something to turn that around.”
Though those community meetings have not been officially set, Snell said they would be held before Thanksgiving.
Covington told the board that a new test tracking system would help teachers identify strengths and weaknesses in each student’s testing.
“Immediately after a teacher gives a practice test or even a nine week’s assessment, it’s going to give us the feedback we need right then and there to let us know if students mastered that skill,” Covington said. “Teachers can make decisions immediately instead of waiting until the end of a nine weeks or the end of a unit to see that the students aren’t getting it. What we’re trying to do is make data-driven decisions then and there so we can make adjustments in instruction while it’s fresh on everybody’s mind.”
In other news, School Board Attorney Bennie Jones, Jr. told the board about an opportunity for the school district to switch to solar energy in the future. The renewable energy source would likely bring down the district’s energy costs in the long run, which is a large portion of the district’s budget. Jones said there is $30 million available to school districts, but the district would have to lobby to state legislatures before it would become available.