Picayune gets good news, but told work must continue

Published 2:16 pm Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Picayune school board received some good news last night on two fronts — the district’s students did well on state tests, better than the state average, and the high school band will grow to its former size within a couple of years.

Rucks Robinson, the district’s educational consultant, reported to the board that even though the state’s tests given last year don’t count for accreditation this year, the district and its schools would have met or exceeded all the state’s requirements for accreditation if they did count.

The state is using last year’s test to gather data on which to base its requirements for accreditation.

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Robinson went through the test scores school by school. He praised the district’s teachers, principals and administration for the work it has done to improve over the past year.

However, he also had a warning.

“What you have accomplished is wonderful, but it gets more difficult” in the future, he said.

“It gets harder for your teachers. It gets harder for your students. And it gets harder for your administration,” Robinson told the three members of the board — Edward Stubbs, Harvey Miller and Duane Wheat — for the Picayune Municipal Separate School District who were present.

He told the board that its purchase of the Fast ForWord reading software has helped tremendously in the improvements the district has made and said, “If you must emphasize something over and over again, it must be reading.”

Robinson said that all learning is based on being able to read. He said the district, with 71 percent of its students eligible for free or reduced lunches, has a high percentage of students coming to school who are arriving in the district’s schools with language deficits. He said the Fast ForWord software is helping greatly with erasing that deficit.

“You were down low (in academics) and you have made great strides, but you can’t relax,” he warned, because the standards the district and its schools must meet increase every year.

New band director Tim Garrett told the board that the high school band now has 52 members and the junior high band has 24 members, which means the band won’t grow much for about two years. However, Garrett said there are 115 members of the 6th grade band and that when those students reach the high school, the band should begin growing back to its former size.

He also showed board members an instrument that had fallen apart because of age and use and he showed them its replacement, a brand new instrument that cost nearly $1,500. Garrett warned the board that there are other instruments belonging to the band that also need replacing, and many of them are costly. The band director left to go meet with 6th grade students and their parents at the band hall to begin assigning instruments to students.

“Numbers are on the way, I promise. It’s just going to us a while to get there,” he said as he left.

Band Booster President Billy Walley thanked the board for what it has done to improve the band hall and to support the band.

Local resident Larry Breland asked the board if it could have the accomplishments of the old George Washington Carver High School football team displayed at the stadium.

Local pastor Joey Mark asked the board to have the South Side elementaries, which occupy the old Carver High School, renamed George Washington Carver Upper Elementary and George Washington Carver Lower Elementary. The board said it would take the request under advisement.

George Washington Carver High School was the black high school back when schools were segregated in Mississippi and much of the South.

In other matters, the board:

— Approved the request of swimming coach Ray Lossett to have his monetary supplement of $1,600 for the year donated back to the team’s budget.

— Approved hold only one meeting in November, on Nov. 11, and only one meeting in December, on Dec. 9. Both months have major holidays when schools are closed for the holiday.

— Approved personnel matters.

— Approved consent items.

— Approved JBHM consulting agreement with Exceptional Education.

— Approved dues to the Gulf Coast Education Initiative Consortium.

— Approved three grant applications and accepted a $3,500 grant from the Miss. Arts Commission to Nicholson Elementary and accepted a $16,000 grant from NASA-Stennis Space Center for Team CHAOS.

— Went into executive session.