By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Oktibbeha County School District Board of Directors will meet at 6 p.m. tonight to approve the school at-risk action plans for East Oktibbeha County Elementary School and East Oktibbeha County High School.
Both schools have struggled to raise state standardized test scores over the last few years and are now under pressure from the Mississippi Department of Education to improve this year or face consequences.
Each school underwent an evaluation last September by a technical assistance team contracted by the MDE. That team drafted a report for the school board highlighting the strengths and weaknesses at each school.
Though the report did not paint an entirely positive outlook for each school, the technical assistance team has stayed at the schools to work with teachers and administrators to outline an improvement plan. The team helped teachers and administrators focus their efforts and come up with specific goals to improve instruction.
Those plans were presented to the school board during its regular meeting last month and are expected to be approved tonight.
The stakes are very high at each school. If EOCES does not raise its Quality Distribution Index — which sits at a score of 101, ranking it as a low performing school — the community could choose to convert the school into a charter school under the New Start School Program and Conversion Charter School Act of 2010.
EOCHS’s situation is even more precarious. The school’s QDI score is 96, ranking it as a failing school. If it does not raise the score at least four points, MDE will fire every single employee at the high school and take over operations.
Despite the enormous pressure, MDE Bureau Manager of School Improvement Laura Jones, who has been working the Oktibbeha County schools for several years, said she remains optimistic this will be the year the schools turn around.
Jones said EOCES Principal Yolanda Magee and EOCHS Principal Helen Kennard have shown they are willing to make the changes necessary to succeed.
During tonight’s meeting, the board will receive an update from school administrators on the progress at all four county schools, along with data on student failures from the first semester.