Picayune school tours

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Picayune school board toured three elementary schools Tuesday morning and learned how they are working to improve their scores on state tests and students at one of the schools are planning to compete in the Sea Perch program, a robotics program sponsored by the U.S. Navy’s research laboratory at Stennis Space Center.

The school board also looked at the Picayune Memorial High School’s baseball field, which is having drainage problems in the outfield, and at a parcel of school property at Roseland Park Elementary School where the district hopes to expand the playground.

The board started at South Side Upper Elementary where music teacher Dr. Earl Fox had his students demonstrate their abilities on their Yamaha keyboards. Fox pointed out that the keyboards had been gotten for the district through a grant in 2001 and despite continuous and heavy use are still doing well.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

South Side Upper Principal Debbie Smith guided the school board through several areas of the school, then brought board members into the faculty planning room. There Smith showed how the school is tracking both the school’s and students’ progress with a set of graphics where individual students’ progress is tracked over all subjects, including math, reading, science and language arts.

Smith said the graphics help the teachers determine who needs help to advance from basic through the different levels up to advanced.

“They’re all showing progress,” she said, even the few remaining at the basic level.

Smith said the school is incorporating the strategies listed in Common Core, though not the material.

“The strategies of Common Core are wonderful, awesome,” she said, but she expressed some reservations about some of the material included in Common Core., which the school is not incorporating into its lessons.

“At this point, we are able to use what we want” from Common Core, Smith said.

She said she doesn’t know what the tests being developed by the Park, a school book publishing company, will hold.

“As far as the strategies, they’re wonderful. Now as far as the tests, Park is developing those. … We don’t know what it’s going to look like yet,” she said.

Board members said they were impressed with what they saw in the faculty planning room and wanted to know if the other school principals in the Picayune Municipal Separate School District were familiar with it. Superintendent Dean Shaw, who was leading the tour of the three schools, said yes and that the principals of the other schools had held a meeting in South Side Upper’s planning room.

Board members then went to Nicholson Elementary where it met with school system maintenance director Arnold Smith who explained to them his system for keeping the schools freshly painted and showed off the school’s new multipurpose room, on which the maintenance department had done a lot of the construction.

Winding up the tour at Roseland Park Elementary, the board looked in on students who were building Sea Perch robots to compete in the Navy lab’s program.

There they learned that while only the 5th and 6th graders can compete in the Sea Perch program, 4th graders also were building a robot so they would be ready to build for competition when they reach the 5th and 6th grades.

The school board returned to the district’s central offices for its regular meeting where it:

— Approved a revised school calendar that added four days to the end of the school year to make up for days lost to the ice storm. A 5th day was added for teachers. School for students would now end on May 29 and for teachers on May 30.