North Panola Conservator

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

District poised for progress, says new state conservator

By Jason C. Mattox

The new state conservator of the North Panola School District, Glenn Swann, hit the ground running when he was chosen to replace Bob Strebeck in the struggling district.

“This is not the first time I have succeeded Bob Strebeck as a conservator,” Swann explained. “He was the conservator at Jefferson Davis for eight months before I replaced him.

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“I knew from that experience that I was going to walk into a district that had good structure and was moving in the right direction,” he added.

Swann said during his tours of the schools, he has noticed that they operate with “good structure and order and the students are engaged in learning.”

“I think the groundwork that was laid by Mr. Strebeck is going to pay dividends for this district during the new testing cycle,” he said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean there is going to be a quantum leap” in test scores.

“All of my efforts are going to be focused on instruction and making sure that we have the most effective instructional program with the most effective instruction we can have,” he said. “We are going to continue to work to improve the image of the school in the state and the community.”

Accountability Standards

The North Panola School District finds itself in the conservatorship after the district failed to meet 32 of 37 accountability standards nearly three years ago.

“A lot of the issues have been addressed and could probably be taken off the list if the state were to come in a re-audit,” Swann said. “Mr. Strebeck had made plans to schedule another visit to clear up some of those standards.”

Swann said he has not had time to go over the violations, but said once things settled down, he would further examine the material.

“I know that most of the facilities issues have been cleared up, and a lot of what is going on in the academic program right now is going to remedy some of those problems,” he said.

Swann said the district is looking to move forward in hiring highly qualified teachers for the upcoming school year.

“We want to do the best we can to give these students the best education they can get from North Panola,” he said. “A lot of districts are reducing staff because of the budget cuts, but we don’t know if that is in the cards for us.”

Community Support

Swann said he has already met with several local civic organizations in the North Panola School District, and plans to meet with more in the coming weeks.

“I have found that the people of this community are very receptive and supportive of what we are trying to do,” Swann said. “We are going to do what we can to create some positives.

“We want it to be where if someone hears of North Panola, there isn’t a negative connotation anymore,” he added. “Instead we want them to talk about it being a district that had such a big improvement in the test scores.”

Swann said he has spoken with business owners who are willing to help with a career fair and offering to come visit the school.

“We need to work hand-in-hand with the local industries,” he said. “Great schools will impact the economy in a positive way.

“One of the number one things an industry looks at is the quality of the education in a town they might want to relocate into,” Swann added. “We want to make sure we produce students ready to either go into the workforce or go on to continue their education.”

Swann said the district may consider implementing programs for adults in the district like an adult literacy program if there is a need.

“We want to try to meet the needs of the community,” he said. “The test scores are top priority, but we want to produce students that are of healthy mind and body.”

The community of North Panola will also have a more direct line into the district thanks in part to new Community Liaison Howard Sanders.

“Mr. Sanders will be working with (former liaison) Mack Dandridge, lending his knowledge to the community,” he said. “He has served as a conservator before, so he knows what this is going to take.”

School Board/Community Forums

During the previous conservatorship, meetings of the North Panola School District Board of Trustees were few and far between, something Swann plans to correct by holding regular board meetings.

“I have had the chance to speak with the board members and have a little meet and greet,” he said. “But they now know what my plans are for this district.”

Swann said regular meetings of the school board will begin this month.

As for community meetings like the one called by the Mississippi Department of Education in February, Swann said they could be possible if needed.

“I’m not going to shy away from that,” Swann said. “But I would get Mr. Sanders’ input on that matter. He has his ear to the ground, and he will tell me if we need to conduct one.

“We want to do what we can to keep the community and everyone informed about what is going on with the district,” he said. “There has been marked improvement in the district over the past 18 months, and we want to continue to move this district forward.

“The district is very similar in makeup to Jefferson Davis, but I think there is much more stability here than there was when I arrived at Jeff Davis,” Swann added. “The morale here is higher and I think the people in this district are going to work hard to make this the best district possible.”