North Panola academics

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 18, 2012

NP closer to local control after promising academics

By Billy Davis

North Panola is poised to drop four years of state control after academic data shows students continue to improve their skills in the classroom.

It’s possible that North Panola voters could elect a school board this year, the first step toward local control, said Robert King, the school district’s conservator.

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The school district is also very close to correcting the last of its accreditation problems, the second factor that affects state conservatorship, King told The Panolian.

Last week, the Miss. Department of Education released letter grades “A” through “F” for public schools and their districts. North Panola scored a district-wide “D” grade and is labeled as “Academic Watch,” neither a flattering designation for any school district.

But additional data shows four of five North Panola schools met “growth,” which measures if students are building on achievement from the prior year.

Other test data shows the district improved its QDI score over last year, and King pointed out that the district missed a “Successful” label by only a single digit, 132 instead of 133.

“Last year the QDI for North Panola was 118,” said King, who was appointed in 2011.

The weakest school in the school district was Crenshaw Elementary, which failed to meet “growth” and scored the only “F” in the county.

Crenshaw Elementary is also involved in the heralded Barksdale Reading Program, and King said the school will be undergoing closer monitoring during the current school year.

“We are not pleased to see the progress moving backwards,” King said of the Crenshaw school, which had been a bright spot in the district just three years ago.

King pivoted to other brighter spots in the school district, noting that Greenhill Elementary was failing two years ago and, like the school district, missed “Successful” by a single point.

King said Como Elementary is the “strongest” in the district. The school’s QDI score, 152, was the third-highest in the county.  

The conservator pointed out that North Panola High scored a 146 on the QDI and is listed as “Successful” along with Como Elementary.

The high school has a goal to reach a QDI of 170 during the current school year, King said.

North Panola’s academic data has been embargoed for weeks, but King had hinted at recent school board meetings that students made strides in the classroom.

Reached by phone Monday, King agreed that the Miss. Department of Education is satisfied North Panola is showing continuous improvement.

Asked about the status of conservatorship, King carefully explained that it’s likely a school board could be elected in a special election during the current school year.

The new school board members would then select a superintendent, whose hiring must be approved by the Department of Education, King further explained.

The five-person school board was dissolved in May after a state law went into effect, leaving King to lead school board meetings without trustees present.

Before the school board was dissolved, King allowed trustees to conduct public meetings while he sat to the side.

The school board was recognized as a “Board of Merit” after several trustees collectively accumulated 102 hours of continuing education during the 2010-2011 school year.

The Mississippi State School Boards Association bestowed the honor toward North Panola.