State Superintendent visits Poplarville

Published 7:00 am Thursday, April 28, 2016

STATELY VISIT: Mississippi State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright speaks with first graders in Cindy Sutfin’s class at Poplarville Lower Elementary.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

STATELY VISIT: Mississippi State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright speaks with first graders in Cindy Sutfin’s class at Poplarville Lower Elementary.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

Wednesday, as part of her annual tour of public school districts, Mississippi’s State Superintendent of Education, Dr. Carey Wright, toured classrooms of the Poplarville School District.
“It’s my favorite time of year,” she said. “I get to see what’s happening in the classrooms and visit with superintendents, teachers and students. This is where it happens. It’s exciting and reinforcing. There are a lot of good things happening in our state.”
Last week, Mississippi’s legislative session ended and Wright highlighted some of the measures that will impact education in the state, including changes to the state’s special education voucher. Families who have had an active Individualized Education Plan in the past five years can apply for the voucher, Wright said. In the past, the statute allowed parents 18 months window for an IEP.
In order to apply and receive the voucher, parents must withdraw their child from public school and will receive $6,500 to pay for services the child might need elsewhere, Wright said.
Another new law will allow for the opening of charter schools in C rated districts, she added. Children can now cross district lines to attend charter schools.
“Another new bill that passed will allow the State Board to create an achievement school district,” Wright said. “This new district would take over districts who have received an F rating for two years in a row. It creates a district that fits Mississippi’s standards and allows districts to learn from their mistakes and build on their successes.”
On a local level, the Mississippi Senate consolidated the Lumberton School District with the Poplarville and Lamar County School Districts, Poplarville School District Superintendent Carl Merritt said.
According to previous coverage, Lumberton’s School District has 585 students.
The Legislature has given the districts three years to finalize the consolidation, he said. Merritt said a commission will be formed to construct a plan for consolidation which will need to be completed by July 1 of this year. Merritt also added that he and Lumberton officials have a good communicative relationship.
“When consolidating, it’s important for everyone to come to the same table and work together,” Wright said. “Success is dependent on all key players working together on behalf of the children.”
Wright said there are a variety of reasons for consolidating, one of those being programming. In a high school with only 150 students, offering a robust curriculum can be difficult, she said.
Wright said this planning time and articulation between the schools will be essential. Principals and teachers will need to gather and document information about each student’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I envision field trips to schools so the students can see the place and get those relationships going,” Wright said. “Parents will need to be engaged in the communication so they feel a part of it. It’s not being done to them, but with them.”
Merritt said the bottom line is for this consolidation to run as smoothly as possible for the children.
“We will need to know the needs of the children coming to us, so when they come here, teachers will understand each child’s need. Lumberton is close to us so we know a lot of them there. We want to do it right. Dr. Wright’s vision is children-driven and I like that. It’s been uniform from the day she came in. She has come into her position while changes in education are happening across the nation. She’s done well. I appreciate her type of communication. She is visible, informative and supportive. We are glad to have her here today.”

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