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Lawrence Co. schools hope to beat state averages

MONTICELLO — The Lawrence County School District is in linewith state averages on the 2000-2001 Mississippi Report Card andmoving to place itself above those averages, district officialssaid.

“I think our report card is very reflective of the state,” saidSharon Dungan, federal programs director and administrativeassistant in charge of instruction.

One area the district is excelling in is special educationstudents receiving diplomas. The district, with 42.86 percentreceiving diplomas, nearly doubles the state average of 23.02percent.

Daily attendance is another area in which the district excels.With a rate of 97.59 percent, the district ranked 27th out of morethan 150 districts in the state in ensuring their students attendclass.

Dungan was especially proud of the gains made in an area wherethe district has been flagging.

The district’s percentage of advanced degree teachers is only30.31, a ranking of 117, while the state average is 38.37 percent.That is, however, a significant improvement over the results givenin the last report card.

The report card for the 1999-2000 school year showed only 16.7percent of the district’s teachers having advanced degrees, aranking of 148.

“We’ve done a tremendous job in raising that,” Dungan said.

She credited a program begun by Superintendent John Bull nearlytwo years ago with the rapid ascension. Bull and Dungan convincedWilliam Carey College to begin hosting masters degree classes ondistrict campuses.

“That was one of the first things Mr. Bull asked me to do,”Dungan said.

The first group of 10 graduates finished this summer, shesaid.

“So next year’s report on that should look even better,” Dungansaid.

One area of the report card which looks very bad is also verymisleading, Dungan said.

The report card states the district has a low percentage, 4.02percent, of gifted students in grades 2-12 with the state boastinga 7.14 percent. However, gifted students in grades 9-12 are notfunded through the gifted program cited and therefore are notincluded in the figures, she said.

In addition, Dungan said, the state has frozen the hiring ofteachers for gifted student programs until other needs are met.There is a statewide waiting list of districts wanting to hirethese teachers.

The district slightly edges the state in its percentage ofgraduates: 76.97 to 76.56 percent. However, Dungan said that isn’tsatisfactory.

“A 78 percent graduation rate isn’t good enough,” she said. “Thestate as a whole needs to take a look at that.”

The district is working on ways to address that issue, she said,but they all take time to come into play.

“Board-certified teachers and early childhood development shouldhave a major impact on that,” Dungan said.

The district currently hosts a respectable 10 master teachersout of a district total 170 teachers.

“We have one of the highest percentages of nationally-certifiedteachers in the state,” she said.

Early childhood development is where the biggest impact will bemade though, she said. By teaching children how to learn and studyat an earlier age and getting parents involved with the educationalsystem will have the greatest impact.

“One area that doesn’t show up in the report card is thetremendous efforts we’ve put forth on early childhood,” Dungansaid. “We’re going to see a big difference over the next decade. Ifthere is one thing in the district you could put your finger onthat will make a difference, it’s this.”

The district has worked hard during the last several years toboost enrollment in Head Start, establish Parent Centers andencourage and promote strong parent-teacher relationships.

“All in all,” Dungan said, “I think this district is faring verywell.”