By Leslie N. Dees
The Star Herald
With Attala County School District given the grade of “D” by the State Department of Education, Superintendent Bryan Weaver brought the idea of bringing an education consultant group into district before the school board on November 15.
Weaver suggested using Performance Base Education Consultants and they would visit each elementary school for five days and each high school for six days.
School board member Rusty Dees asked if this was necessary, referencing a bad experience with a consultant group in the past.
“I would say this is something that we have to have. I think this is going to help us in the long run,” Weaver said.
What would they do?
“The first thing they will do is come in and analyze what we are doing and is it working,” Weaver said. “Apparently, it’s not working as well as it should and determine what we can do better for an immediate turnaround. Our scores this year are probably set for the next three years with common core coming in.”
Weaver said the consultants would be in the classroom with the teachers and would be evaluating them.
“That’s kinda what your job and the principals’ job is,” Dees said.
Not disagreeing with Dees, Weaver said, “We are at a point where I can’t be at every school every day and the principals – they need some more help too.”
School board Christie Moody wanted to know how much time principals spent in the classroom?
Weaver said not enough.
“As the principal, you are the leader of the school and everything that comes in that office is directed at you,” Weaver said. “Half their time should be in the classroom.”
“In all honesty, I don’t know what their responsibilities are. To me, their primary responsibility needs to be that our kids are getting academically what they need,” Moody said. “Are there not things they can delegate to other people there so they are able to participate in the classrooms. You know one time we talked about exactly what our guidance counselors do.”
Moody said the school board should look at their policies and get their priorities in place to get the students where they need to be.
Accountability for the principals was raised to Weaver by Dees.
Weaver said that he had not presently evaluated the principals but that the teachers had been evaluated.
Weaver said the principals should know where the problems at their schools are and that improvement should be made through their usage of testing data.
“We should be able to improve without any (outside) help,” Weaver said. “But, I don’t want us to settle on the small improvements. I want us to improve a lot and this is the year we can do it.”
“We are looking at bringing someone in that can do a system reform,” Weaver said, noting that in years past testing data had not been used by teachers.
Accountability continued to be addressed by school board members.
School board president Linda Massey said that on the state level, school board members are being told that they are to be held accountable.
“What this school board needs to do is hold everyone else accountable for their jobs too,” Massey said. “While we mentioning accountability here – It’s a state mandate that you do evaluate your superintendent and make it public knowledge. This is going to be interesting in January.”
Moody said she was all for evaluation because she believes that you’ve got to know “what your teachers are teaching, how they are teaching and how the kids are learning.”
“Not all kids learn the same,” she said.
At the October meeting, all four principals addressed the board about the improvements they planned to make at their schools.
School board member Willie Perteet asked would data be collected on their plans.
Weaver said he would be working with the principals on their plans.
“If they don’t come back to our meeting, how do we know they keep doing what they are doing?,” Massey said. “How do we know? They aren’t here looking at us.”
Weaver said he could answer any questions that the board may have about the improvement plans.
“There is one thing I like to know. I would like each principal to tell us where the weak spots are in the school and what they are trying to do to improve them,” Dees said. “What are they doing to bring those children up to grade level.
We’ve got children that come from Greenlee to Ethel and still can’t read. We have spent thousands of dollars on programs that teach these kids and they aren’t getting it.”
Massey raised her concern about using the consulting group.
“That’s the only thing that bothers me with this,” she said. “We buy this and they talk a big game for 12 visits and make a lot of money and they are out of here and everyone is lost as they were.”
Dees said for his six years on the board, he hears the same “song and dance” from the principals and no improvement has been made.
“Before we start rehiring, I’m going to hold somebody accountable,” Dees said. “If they don’t fix these weak spots, somebody’s going to have to go . . . even if they have a doctorate degree.”
Weaver recommended that they hire the consultant group and the board tabled the action to seek more information on the group’s success rate and feedback.
Ethel High School and Greenlee Elementary were given an ‘F,’ or low-performing, while McAdams High and Long Creek Elementary were given a ‘D’ for academic watch.