NP District: ‘golden year’ on horizon? 6/9/2015

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 9, 2015

NP District: ‘golden year’ on horizon?

By Rupert Howell
“(You’re) making good progress in all areas, as far as I can tell,” Dr. Mike Waldrop told North Panola School trustees and predicted later during a special meeting held last Thursday, “I think next year will be your golden year, if you structure properly.”

Waldrop is executive director of the Miss. School Board Association and was invited to the trustee board meeting last week to assist with, “visioning” and plans for North Panola’s upcoming year.

North Panola is entering its second year of independence following several years of being under state conservatorship due to low test scores and other shortfalls.

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“There is no reason you can’t be a very successful school district,” Waldrop told trustees and Superintendent  Cedric Richardson during the work session.

But in the next room sat reality— reality in the form of veteran administrator Mike Britt who was awaiting his time before the board with several requests for next year’s budget.

North Panola school district has had no new school buildings in the past 45 years to speak of. The real estate market is somewhat stagnant and total property values there actually decreased a few years back due to aging mobile homes’ decreasing values. Those mobile homes house a significant portion of the local residents while new construction of “stick or mortar” homes is scant.

The district has been at or near the maximum amount of millage it can raise for property taxes to fund operation of the school. To say resources are scarce in the district is a given.

The vision set out in the first few moments of the meeting included a financially sound high performing district offering high technology training in a safe and orderly environment.

Administrators have “brightened up” the schools with fresh coats of paint and coaches and teachers alike have been successful in obtaining donations for certain items as football equipment and other items taken for granted by larger well funded school districts.

There is also a “swagger” that was missing during the early years of conservatorship that has returned along with signs of school pride.

The district also depends on several teachers coming from Teach for America that offers some of the nations’ brightest an opportunity to earn an advanced degree while serving students in impoverished areas.

Waldrop reminded trustees that if a school is failing and the same teachers and administrators remain in their positions with no change, chances are scores will not improve.

“You’ve got to look at everything. Consultants, teachers, principals,” Waldrop said. “Lay people make great board members if they focus on the governance aspect.” 

Meanwhile budget meetings will come up later this month that sets the tone  for spending in the 2015-16 school year.

A special meeting is scheduled for  Wednesday evening to discuss personnel. The regular monthly meeting occurs on the third Monday of each month.