Poplarville principals debrief School Board on progress, areas to improve

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Poplarville High School Principal John Will was one of five district principals to brief the Poplarville School Board on student and faculty progress in the district. Photo by Julia Arenstam

Poplarville High School Principal John Will was one of five district principals to brief the Poplarville School Board on student and faculty progress in the district.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

Before hearing updates about each school in the district, the Poplarville School Board received an update on the Parent Teacher Organization from President Kristi Harris.

The group re-organized three years ago in an effort to enhance education, show appreciation, beautify and promote school spirit for students, staff and the administration, Harris said.

Since the first day of school in August, the PTO has raised over $11,000, becoming the “go to organization for our school administrators,” she said. “That is $2 at a time…it shows there is nothing we can’t do that $2 at a time can’t solve.”

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In addition to purchasing the mascot, Buzz, the PTO organized events at each school within the district, allowing the schools to keep 70 percent of the funds raised to use at its own discretion, Harris said.

The PTO meets the second Tuesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at the Middle School of Poplarville.

During the last Board meeting of the year, each school’s principal briefed the Board on the progress made and identified areas to improve upon.

Poplarville High School Principal John Will said he has seen a lot of success in the school, both academically and athletically.

While in the 9th and 10th grades, students complete all state-required testing, allowing them to focus on other tests, like monthly ACT practice tests during 11th and 12th grades, Will said.

He said his goal for next year is to achieve an A accountability rating from the state, a mark the school missed by nine points.

Dr. Marlene Cole, director of the Career and Technical Education Center, said students are diligently working to learn technical and life skills. Those skills include tying a tie, dressing professionally for an interview, learning to sew buttons and other “basic things they’re not getting at home like we did,” she said.

Cole also told the Board that the student service coordinator works with each of the five programs daily to provide additional tutoring and support.

Middle School of Poplarville Principal Heidi Dillon said the school earned a C accountability grade last year and is making it a goal to achieve a B or higher in the future.

With programs like i-Ready, the school is catering to individual students and their needs, she said.

One of the most successful programs is Coffee Talk with the Principal, which allows parents to meet with the school’s administration monthly, Dillon said.

Another program being implemented at the school is intended to promote reading for pleasure. The Drop Everything And Read program encourages students to read whatever interests them, including magazines and comic books during the school day, Dillon said.

This time also allows for students to work on reading strategies or be pulled aside for individual tutoring, she said.

Poplarville Upper Elementary Principal Lynn Payne said changes implemented last January helped the school earn a B accountability grade.

Payne said data from the i-Ready program is “instrumental in detecting strengths and weaknesses” in each student.

Poplarville Superintendent Carl Merritt said the district is becoming more data driven and thanked the Board for continuing to approve requests for tutors.

Before moving into routine matters, Poplarville Lower Elementary Principal Candace Henderson said the school’s role is important because it is the “foundation of children’s educational opportunities; we have to get it right the first time.”

State testing doesn’t begin until 3rd grade, Henderson said, after students have already left the school.

“When [students] leave us in 2nd grade they have to already be on a 3rd grade level,” she said.

Henderson helped stimulate attendance by instating a Rise and Shine program every morning where the school gathers in the auditorium to say the pledge of allegiance and sing the national anthem.

The school administration also rewards students with a 96 percent attendance record by taking them out to lunch once a quarter, she said.

The Board and Merritt commended each principal for their work in their respective schools.

The next Board meeting will take place Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. at the district office.

About Julia Arenstam

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