Survey yields safety recommendations

A recent safety and athletic facilities survey of the Starkville School District’s campus has yielded several recommendations.
The SSD Board of Trustees learned the findings of the survey during its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday night.
Chris Cosper, assistant director for educational partnerships at Mississippi State University, worked with Supt. Judy Couey to evaluate any safety risks posed at each of the district’s schools, especially after the completion of extensive construction projects.
Using a 45-page checklist, Cosper toured each school property and developed a list of suggestions for the board to consider.
At Sudduth Elementary, Cosper suggested completing the north fence of the property and installing a gate on the east side of the building closing off a small courtyard.
Assistant Supt. Walter Gonsoulin said work to complete the north fence at Sudduth is under way and that administrators would look into installing a gate to close off the small courtyard on the school’s east side.
For Henderson Ward Stewart, Cosper suggested equipping playground monitors with walkie-talkies since the playground is fairly secluded from the rest of the campus and positioned outside of the gates surrounding the property.
He also suggested installing “panic” hardware on the gates that will allow for anyone inside to open the gates in case of emergencies. Suggestions for Armstrong Middle School included removing the canopy between the main building and the gym. Cosper said he believes it may be causing leaking in the gym and it would provide more light.
Cosper also recommended that the front entry to the gym could be stand to be remodeled and to close the south courtyard of the campus to public access.
For Starkville High, Cosper suggested adding new fencing around the west and south sides of the campus, as well as building a new gym as the second-story gym presents evacuation challenges in the event of an emergency.
Finally, Cosper advised the board to correct deficiencies in the baseball bleachers.
Cosper also conducted examinations of the athletic facilities, and put together a list of suggestions for the board to consider.
He suggested a new high school gym that would accommodate over 100 percent of the existing capacity at 30,600 square feet and costing between $2.9 and $5.3 million. He proposed a new multi-purpose building for Armstrong and a new field house at the high school.

Test score report

Following Cosper’s presentation, Assistant Supt. Beth Sewell discussed the Mississippi Curriculum Test and subject area test scores recently released by the state Dept. of Education.
Sewell explained that Armstrong was the only school to be placed on academic watch, while all the other schools in the district were rated as successful.
Armstrong was also the only school not to meet growth indexes as outlined by Education Department standards, but that the three remaining schools did meet growth. The district as a whole did not meet growth, but was less than a point away from doing so.
“I have great expectations,” Sewell said of the current school year.
“There is a tremendous focus on using pacing guides throughout the district... We’ve got a lot of exciting things going on.... We’re exciting about using the data.”
Sewell explained to the board that there has been a big push between grades to communicate more effectively on state benchmarks to ensure less overlap of information and to ensure teachers are preparing students for the following grade.
“We’re becoming more of a team,” Sewell added.

Board retreat report

Couey talked with the board about the recent board retreat that was held Sept. 18 through the Mississippi School Board Association.
The main purpose of the meeting was to help each district formulate a goal for the year.
Couey listed several goals the board discussed during the drafting process:
• Seeing 65 percent of all students to score proficient or advanced on the state tests by 2012.
• Increasing the flexiblitiy of teaching options to students as in duel enrollment, education options and online classes.
• Increasing the readiness opportunities for pre-kindergarten students, which could include increasing the school year for pre-k children, and also working with day cares to let them know about pre-kindergarten benchmarks and expectations.
• Increasing the graduation rate from 60.4 percent to 75 percent by 2012.
• Increasing the ACT scores above the national level.
• Increasing the number of students receiving honors diplomas.
Since two school board members, Bill Weeks and Lee Brand, were absent from Tuesday night’s meeting, the board hoped to schedule a time for the five to meet before the next meeting to draft all-encompassing goals for the district.

Other business

In new business, the board voted to approve the remaining requests for fundraising and wellness policies for each school.
The board approved the following staffing recommendations, resignation, retirement and changes of status:
• Kimberly Brooks to be a teacher assistant at Sudduth effective Oct. 6.
• Yvonne Ellis to be a teacher/tutor for ASSETS 1 and 2 effective Oct. 6.
• David Fondren to be a maintenance worker effective Oct. 6.
• Leroy Gandy to be a custodian at Henderson effective Oct. 6.
• Sheila Thead to be a Spanish teacher at SHS effective Oct. 11.
• Jimmie Wordlaw to be a part-time janitor at Armstrong effective Sept. 14.
• Sudduth certified nursing assistant Taffuya Harris resigned effective Sept. 14.
• Henderson janitor Aaron Poe retired effective Sept. 30.
• Sudduth teacher Lacey Farmer received AA license effective Aug. 31. Her contract will be amended to reflect pay increase.
• Speech-language pathologist Polly Fulford will be paid for assessment testing during summer months.
• Willie Gillespie will transfer from Family-Centered Programs to behavior modification at Overstreet effective Oct. 6.
• Tasha Johnson will transfer from teacher assistant to certified nursing assistant at Sudduth effective Sept. 14.
• Millsaps teacher Ray New received his AA license effective Aug. 23. His contract will be amended to reflect pay increase.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. at the central office.