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NP School District

District progressing, says NP conservator

By Jason C. Mattox

The North Panola School District is ready for a new school year and its second year of state conservatorship, according to state-appointed conservator Bob Strebeck.

Strebeck acknowledged there were concerns among teachers, administrators, students and parents during the early stages of the conservatorship, and added that those fears have been put to rest going into year two.

School Personnel

There will be no new programs during the school year, but there will be new areas of emphasis, the conservator said.

“Last year we totally emphasized student behavior and having high expectations and proper dress, and that is not going to change,” Strebeck said.

“This year we are going to deal with differentiating our instruction for those students who need it,” he continued. “Teachers and administrators have received training in these areas, and we will apply that differentiation process to help the students who are struggling and having difficulty in the normal setting.”

Unlike previous years, the district has filled all its open teaching positions with highly qualified teachers while retaining all administrators.

A highly qualified teacher is one with an endorsement in the subject are in which they are teaching, meaning they have specialized in the subject area.

Strebeck said the consistency of leadership from school principals will be a big plus for the district during the coming year.

“It is paramount in the success of our schools,” he said. “I have been very pleased with the administrators and they all provided the kind of leadership where it was needed.

“I think they will be more valuable now that they have had a year at the schools,” Strebeck added. “I’m pleased with their progress.”

Improvements

Strebeck said the district has seen improvements in the district since the start of conservatorship, but added there could be more changes coming.

“I think the community is embracing this process and that the teachers received the support they needed from the administrators and that had been lacking in the past,” he said. “I think the consistent leadership and assistance from the administrators and the district office are one of the reasons we have improved.”

One improvement that has quieted parental complaints has been the purchase of new text books.

“Almost all of our students now have adequate text books, and we have been trying to purchase them when the subject area comes up for adoption,” Strebeck said.

 “We are working on it, but it should also be noted that text books are now a supplement in the classroom,” he said. “We have curriculum frameworks that we use, and they are basically our guide and the book is just a resource.”

Community involvement

The conservator again remarked that the community has been supportive of the conservatorship process, but added he would like to see more parental involvement at the schools.

“We cannot please everyone, and the parents that we need to see or to really get involved are the ones that don’t show up for meetings or parent/teacher conferences,” he said. “These are the ones that we need to reach.”

Strebeck said the district focused on kindergarten parents and wants to continue that focus along with first graders during the school year.

During a community meeting held last year, the conservator said the district would take a hard stance on truancy. He has seen no real decline in the area despite more focus.

“That is certainly an area where the parents and the community need to assist us,” he said. “We can’t make sure they come, we just have to take what comes through our doors and educate them.

Board of Trustees

Beginning in July, the North Panola School District Board of Trustees began holding monthly meetings for the first time in nearly nine months.

“I am committed to working with this board to try to demonstrate to them proper protocol and show them how a meeting should be running,” he said.

Strebeck said the delay came because he wanted the trustees to step back and look at the district like an outsider.

“I wanted them to see they way we were running things,” he said. “Primarily, the board’s function is to adopt policy and procedures and to make proper financial and personnel decisions.

“They have asked questions in those areas, and have had the opportunity to know what was going on each month.”

Strebeck said the board of trustees, himself and everyone involved with the district shares a common goal for the coming year.