Billy Davis’ column

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 13, 2007

Public meeting failed to allow public input

In a public notice published in this newspaper, North Panola Superintendent Lucinda Carter invited the school district’s “stakeholders” to “come and share with us their concerns” and “participate with us as we strive to make improvement(s) in our district.”

The event, held Monday evening in Sardis, was advertised as a “public meeting” of these “stakeholders.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

After asking the public to attend, and after pleading during the meeting for more parental involvement to prevent school dropouts and teenage pregnancy, and for more community input to improve student achievement, the superintendent concluded the meeting by flatly refusing to take questions or comments from the “stakeholders” in attendance.

“The reason why we’re having this forum here is to find some suggestions and strategies,” she said halfway into the meeting. Then the meeting was  abruptly ended with instructions for the “stakeholders” in attendance to e-mail their questions or, better yet, write their questions down and drop them by the district office.


“This was for informational purposes only,” the superintendent told an audience member who inquired about an “open session” for questions.

Not only did the superintendent’s public meeting not involve the public who sat in front of her, but the public notice had stated Carter would share “important data”  with the community as it relates to “student academics, testing, school/building improvements, graduation requirements, district vacancies and the state’s audit report.”

The superintendent  spoke briefly on several of those topics, but her remarks were woefully void of specifics. What stakeholders heard instead was a rambling 45-minute monologue about an improved district Web site, the new school calendar, and the root causes of student dropout.

All the while the new superintendent moved from topic to topic with feel-good clichés such as “If we believe it, we can achieve it,” “I dream big,” and “There’s no stopping us.”

What went mostly unsaid Monday was how Carter is addressing North Panola’s failure to follow more than 30 criteria that ensure its accreditation by the Miss. Dept. of Education.

Other than taking a veiled shot at the state for trivial requirements such as signage in school buildings, she failed to give a status report on the corrective action plan, which she is personally responsible for submitting to the state by a July 23 deadline.

People who attended the Monday meeting did receive a single-page handout describing North Panola’s present situation, its goals for improvement, and its strategy for getting there.

Under the heading “Where Do We Want To Go?,” one goal of North Panola is moving its schools to the coveted Level 3 status “or above.”

Under the heading “How Shall We Get There” was written her solution for improving North Panola: “continue working together by collaborating in community forums to strategize on continuous improvements.”

Not only is that a mouthful of nice-sounding gobbelygook, Monday’s meeting bore resemblance to neither a “collaboration” nor a “forum,” since it’s awfully difficult to collaborate if only one person is involved in the effort.