Headlines Cont. – 5/19/2006

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 19, 2006

The Panolian: INSIDE STORIES – May 19, 2006


Weekend’s valedictorians ready for next chapter
By Billy Davis
and Rita Howell

Although he rarely "cracked" a book in high school, South Panola’s 2006 valedictorian, Drew Wilkinson, knows life is about to change when he begins classes at Ole Miss in the fall.

The top senior credits a near-photographic memory for finishing with a 4.0 grade point average, but he knows he’ll need good study habits for his long-term plan, graduating from medical school.

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"We got that talk from some of our teachers," Wilkinson said. "They told us it’s a whole new world out there, and they stressed that we need to be prepared for that."

As class valedictorian Wilkinson will address the class of 2006 Sunday afternoon on the Ole Miss campus. He hasn’t written the speech yet, but he wants it to be light-hearted and show his comical personality.

And, yes, he will probably quote the speech from memory.

The young man’s excellent memory translated into good grades even as a youngster, said his mother, Susan Camp.

"Drew’s always been smart. He was counting to 100 when he was three," Camp said. "His conduct was kind of bad for a while because he was bored in class, but then by junior high he kind of settled in."

By 10th grade the teenager realized he could compete for academic achievement, Camp said, and he was ready to "go to the top" among his peers.

Wilkinson considers himself a "math and science" person. Two of his favorite classes at South Panola were AP calculus and human anatomy and physiology.

"I did have to crack a book for calculus," Wilkinson said. "It was a challenge."

Wilkinson will also start college in the fall with an appreciation for working hard for a paycheck. He has worked since last summer at Bogie’s, and last month he landed a second job at Lowe’s.

"I’m working about 40 hours a week right now," the valedictorian said. "I’m saving up to buy a truck."

Smith heads for Honors College

North Panola High School valedictorian April Smith used to look up at the school’s "Wall of Fame," where there are framed photos of students who have posted exemplary scores on the ACT college entrance exam.

"I wanted to make at least a 30," April remembered this week.

She did.

Not only has she earned herself a spot on the wall, she’s earned herself admission – and a scholarship – to Ole Miss’ prestigious Barksdale Honors College.

The Honors College operates like a college-within-a-college to offer academically versatile students opportunities for development through reading, writing, and discussion, according to the Barksdale Honors College Web site. Students enrolled in the program conduct research and write thesis papers during their senior year.

Ole Miss and its Honors College won out over nine other colleges and universities who wanted April.

An admissions representative came to Sardis from North Carolina Central University to convince April she needed to go there. Howard University offered her a full scholarship. Iowa State wanted her.

In the end, the University of Mississippi’s proximity to Crenshaw was the deciding factor.

That’s where April lives with her grandparents, Roberta and Elliot Wright.

It seems to suit everybody just fine that April will only be one county away when she goes off to college.

Mrs. Wright wouldn’t take any credit for April’s outstanding academic record.

"She came to live with us when she was in the seventh grade, and she was already used to making good grades," the grandmother said. "She just wanted to keep on."

Those good grades led to a National Achievement scholarship in the amount of $2,500. She’s one of only 10 Mississippians chosen for that award.

This year she earned awards for having the highest grade average in her A.P. English class, pre-calculus class, and government class.

Mrs. Wright attributes her granddaughter’s success to her love of reading.

April gives credit to a higher source.

"It’s by the grace of God," she said.

After she gives her valedictory speech Friday night, she’s not sure what she wants to study at Ole Miss.

Before the fall, she plans a trip to Texas to visit her mother, Sharon Smith. Her dad is Anthony Smith of Virginia.

"I just want to enjoy the summer before I start to college," she said. "But I’ll be checking the reading lists for Honors College. There’ll probably be some books I haven’t read yet."

North Panola School trustees consider proposal to close Como Middle School
By Jason C. Mattox

The North Panola School District could shrink from seven schools to six if a proposed restructuring is adopted by the Board of Trustees in the near future.

Restructuring of three schools in the district and the relocation of another was proposed to board members Monday night during a meeting at Crenshaw Elementary.

The district’s schools are Crenshaw Elementary, Green Hill Elementary, Como Elementary, Como Middle School, North Panola Vocational Center, North Panola High School, and North Panola Alternative School.

Under the restructuring plan, Como Middle School would be dissolved thus making Como Elementary a K-8 school. The other two elementary schools would also change to a K-8 format.

In order to dissolve Como Middle School, the board of trustees would be required to pass a resolution to that effect, then inform proper MDE officials of steps to reclassify the school.

Green Hill Elementary would also gain new facilities in the proposed restructuring. The present North Panola Alternative School on McLaurin Street would become Green Hill Extended and would house pre-k and kindergarten classes. The North Panola Alternative School would move to eight classrooms in Como Elementary.

Superintendent Glendora Dugger explained the proposal with a Powerpoint presentation that featured research-based justifications for the restructuring.

Those justifications were that students in a K-8 environment:

– score significantly higher in reading;
– have more positive attitudes;
– reflect stronger self-esteem than peers in junior
  high/middle schools;
– have fewer absences than junior high/middle
  school peers;
– feel safe and protected.

The restructuring will take three actions to go into effect.

Como Middle School would be dissolved. The other elementary schools would be reconfigured and staff would be reassigned to ensure that upper level students are taught by highly qualified staff.

"The way we are planning to decide who to move around will be based on seniority," Dugger said. "The teachers who have been at a school the longest will stay there unless they request a move."

The changes to the schools would result in the following student populations:

     – Green Hill Elementary – 708
     – Como Elementary – 456
     – Crenshaw Elementary – 264

In addition to the changes to the schools, the proposal calls for establishing seventh and eighth grade North Panola teams in football, boys and girls basketball and track and field.

"We are also looking at establishing a baseball team that would play on the field in Como," she said.

Dugger said the changes would be beneficial to the schools and the district as a whole.

"We realize these are major changes, but it should create an environment that is more conducive to learning," she said.

No action was taken on the proposal and no cost estimates were given.

Crenshaw police chief’s pay reinstated
     by city board
By John Howell

City officials in Crenshaw met Monday night, May 15, but city mayor Sylvester Reed said afterwards that he was not prepared to discuss what action was taken during an executive session that lasted over an hour.

"At this time I don’t have all that before me," Reed said when the Panolian contacted him at his office Tuesday morning.

The mayor was joined by aldermen Keith Pride, David Whitsell, Shirley Morgan and Alberta Bradley for the May 15 meeting which was held to "go back into our closed session," the mayor said, that began at the May 2 regular mayor and aldermen meeting. Alderman Milton Phipps was absent due to medical problems.

Though the mayor did not discuss action taken during the executive session, one alderman said that aldermen voted 4-0 to restore Police Chief Darrell Lindsey’s pay after the mayor had suspended him for a week without pay.

Alberta Bradley said that the suspension stemmed from an incident involving the roles of two people hired through a senior citizens’ program who were put to work at the police department. The police chief had contacted the program’s director with questions about how the two workers were to be used, Alderman Whitsell said. The mayor told aldermen that he suspended the police chief because he did not direct his inquiries to him, Whitsell said.

Bradley and Whitsell also said that another person was considered for employment as a police officer during the executive session but aldermen turned down the recommendation.

The Monday night meeting began at 7 p.m. After discussion of several issues, Mayor Reed said that the officials needed to enter executive session to "discuss hiring, firing and other matters." The Panolian objected to the closure, citing Mississippi’s open meetings law which lists specific exceptions to the law which the mayor’s reasons did not appear to include. The mayor and city attorney David Tisdell of Tunica said that their reasons did fall within those specific exemptions, and aldermen voted 4-0 to enter executive session.

Prior to the executive session:
Two men seeking jobs as Crenshaw police officers were introduced to the board. Mayor Reed introduced Robert Garrison of Como and Robert Keely of the Sarah/Askew area. Garrison is a former Como policeman. Keely has just started training in the Quitman County Sheriff’s office, he told the city officials. Both men said that they were seeking part-time employment and would be available for night work. The city officials told Garrison and Keely that they would conduct background checks and contact them within the following week.
Aldermen voted to donate $300 to the Boys and Girls Club of Panola County. The organization had initially requested from Crenshaw a $1,635 donation to help reach a goal of $25,000. "Once the money is raised, a matching grant would push the total to $50,000," Alderman Pride said.
     "Are we going to have enough money to give the $1,600 and give to the library?" Bradley asked.
     "They’ve [Crenshaw’s Sam Lapidus Library] already got $1,500," Mayor Reed replied.
     "I’d like to give the $300 at least,. . . If we’re going to fill the full request, we could do it over a period of time," Alderman Shirley Morgan said.
     Whitsell made the motion to donate the $300, followed by a second from Pride. Whitsell’s motion included language to donate additional money toward the Boys and Girls Club’s full request at a later date.
Mayor Reed reported rehabilitation of three homes had been completed and that a fourth was nearing completion. The rehabilitation was accomplished through a grant that had been obtained with the assistance of Larry Haynes of Tutwiler, a consultant who is working with the city. One home which had initially been included in the grant proposal had been withdrawn, Reed said.
     The mayor also said that he had "found a grant which will help remodel downtown; we’re working on it."
     "What about the stores downtown that don’t have anybody in them?" Whitsell asked.
The mayor also said he had been advised that money for a new combination city hall and sheriff’s department building might be available. He said that he instructed Ms. Frazier (Ann Frazier of Gouras Consulting of Vicksburg) "to go ahead that we might be considered."
     "Do you have a place to put a new city hall?" Whitsell asked.
     "You can put it where it is," Reed replied, adding that an area behind the present facility might also be incorporated.
     "What about the sewer system? Have you heard when they’re going to start?" Bradley asked.
     "In talking to Ms. Frazier we haven’t haven’t heard back from the state and we can’t go any further," Mayor Reed replied. "We already have that one but we just made some changes," he added.
     "Did we bring our orders book tonight?" one aldermen asked.
     "We did not bring it; we found them and got them organized; we did not bring the book," the mayor replied.

In the subsequent interview by telephone Tuesday, Mayor Reed was asked if Crenshaw had an ordinance regulating the placement of mobile homes.

"That’s one thing we’re trying to figure out. What did the past administration do? What did happen?" the mayor replied.

"When we walked in (upon taking office last July) there was quite a bit that was not here," he added.

     Panolian: Is there an ordinance regulating
     abandoned autos?

     Mayor: "I don’t know if we ever had one; we’re
     looking in to our ordinances."

     Panolian: Is there an ordinance regulating
     abandoned and overgrown property?

     Mayor: "Again, I can’t answer that; I really
     don’t know. As far as kept up, some are being

Later, Alderman Bradley said that in the past the city had adopted ordinances regulating mobile home placement and abandoned vehicles. There is also a procedure for requiring owners to maintain their business and residential property. "Yes, sir; there’s a notification process," that demands property be cleaned up by the owner. If the property is not brought into compliance, the the ordinance allows city workers and equipment to clean up the site and add the cost against the property’s taxes.

Three Como principals resign
By Jason C. Mattox

The North Panola School District will be looking for four new administrators for the 2006-2007 school year after three submitted their resignations to the Board of Trustees Monday night.

A new North Panola High School principal was expected with the promotion of current principal Lucinda Carter to assistant superintendent of the district.

However, the resignations of principals from the Como Middle School, Como Elementary School and the Vocation Center director were less expected.

The Board of Trustees accepted the resignations of Rodney Flowers from Como Middle School, George Knox from Como Elementary School and Dorothy Jones from the vocational center.

Flowers and Knox each joined the North Panola School District prior to the start of the present school year.

This will be the third straight year the district will be replacing at least one principal in Como.



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