Holmes County schools make changes before reopening

Published 6:02 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2006

After being taken over by the state earlier this year, Holmes County public schools are preparing to reopen with stricter discipline and tightened security.

The district had been cited for low state test scores and security violations, but came under more scrutiny when several high-profile events happened last spring. At Williams-Sullivan High on the same day a fire was started in a classroom, two adults, including a state employee, were shot with a pellet gun. Students at the school also fought during an assembly.

Joe Haynes was appointed state conservator in March after the state took over the district. Haynes said he is focusing on ensuring teachers can teach and students can learn without such incidents occurring.

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“One of the things I just feel we’ve got to do is establish discipline. … We wanted to remove the excuses,” he said. “There’s no need for any student misbehavior, and there should be some academic enhancements going on.”

Haynes has assigned two security officers each to the three high schools in the district. An extra assistant principal will be assigned to two high schools and one elementary school, as well. In addition to security measures, all students in the six schools will be required to wear uniforms. Until now, uniforms had been voluntary.

During the summer, teachers and principals received a refresher course on classroom management skills. Last week, State Superintendent of Education Hank Bounds held a training session on classroom discipline for all central office and school administrators.

If students fight or commit serious infractions, a new alternative school will be in place to house them.

Haynes said though state test score results are in, he has not had enough time to study them to see if they are high enough to remove J.J. McClain High off of the state priority list.

The North Bolivar school district is also under state oversight. It will be returned to local control in the next few weeks. Two of the three schools in the district made progress in state test scores.