NP Renovations

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2010

Renovation needs named at NP meet

By Billy Davis

North Panola Schools will use a $2.2 million bond to build new science labs at North Panola High, and to replace window units and make roof repairs, said district conservator Dr. Oscar Love.

Love used a community meeting, held Wednesday at the high school, to announce renovation and repair plans for the school district.

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The conservator also announced North Panola has partnered with the Educational Design Institute, an architectural school at Mississippi State, to recommend the school district’s most urgent needs.

EDI collaborates with Mississippi public schools to plan new facilities and to inspect existing facilities, according to the organization’s Web site.

North Panola, by collaborating with Mississippi State and EDI, ensures the school district “will account for every dime” of the $2.2 million, the conservator said.

EDI assistant director Chris Cosper named the projects to an audience consisting mostly of faculty and staff members.  

Lingering safety issues, such as emergency exits in classrooms, top EDI’s recommended to-do list, Cosper said.

Roof repairs, because they can become costly over time, follow second.

Removal of noisy air conditioner window units at three elementary schools, Crenshaw, Como and Greenhill, follow third.

North Panola High and North Panola Junior High are also slated to have window units removed, but they fell farther down the priority list.

Repairing plumbing at some schools rounded out the project list, though Cosper predicted the funds would likely be depleted by then.

“Tell your friends and neighbors, don’t look for brand-new buildings,” Love told the audience. But the repairs will address badly needed projects across the school district, he said.

Love has pressed for building repairs across the district soon after he was named state conservator in May. North Panola trustees seconded Love’s plan and passed a resolution in August to borrow the funds.

The public school district, after two years of state-run administration, has seen test scores climb off the bottom at four of five schools.

Mirroring individual schools, students’ academic improvements moved the district from “Failing” to “Academic Watch.”

The set of “accountability labels,” set by the Miss. Department of Education, are Failing, At Risk of Failing, Low Performing, Academic Watch, Successful, High Performing, and Star District.

School principals, sounding upbeat and confident, took turns speaking at the community meeting.

“We have 477 students and 466 are dedicated every day,” said North Panola High principal Demond Radcliff. “The other 11, I’ve got my eye on.”

Reports from Radcliff and other principals revealed recurring themes in all grades: an emphasis on reading and writing, ongoing “intervention” time for struggling students, and reward systems for students’ good behavior.

“The goal is to reward good behavior, not just punish bad behavior,” explained Como Elementary principal Ben Lundy.

Greenhill Elementary principal La’Keldra Pride, whose school failed to move up last spring, said school faculty has set a goal to boost student achievement by ten percent this year.

Greenhill is in its first year of school improvement, “but we won’t be there for long,” Pride said to applause.

Sardis Police Chief Marcel JoJola also spoke, at times sounding more like a parent than police chief. He described the importance of a safe school and successful education in the life of a child.

“We have some great kids here,” Jojola said. “You never hear about the great kids at North Panola.”

The police chief also delivered a fiery rebuke after a bomb threat was called into North Panola High a day earlier. A concession stand at the football field was also set on fire, he said.

A $1,000 reward is being offered through Crime Stoppers for information that leads to an arrest, the police chief said.

The police chief also sent a warning to drug dealers, promising to “put them in Parchman for selling poison to our children.”  

Others who spoke Wednesday night included state Rep. Joe Gardner; school board president Rosa Wilson; P-16 Council president Billy Brown; and Mary Grady, director of federal programs.

North Panola High students Leszlie Dandridge and Rashard Burdette served as emcees, and the North Panola High JROTC led the Pledge of Allegiance.