• 75°

Franklin schools post strong report card results

MEADVILLE – The latest results from the Mississippi Report Cardrank the Franklin County School District near the top in severalcategories, but school officials said there are still areas wherethe district can do better.

Superintendent Lona Thomas said she was “real pleased” withresults for the 2000-01 school year, which was the most recent dataavailable.

“We still have room for improvement, but we’re doing good for adistrict our size,” Thomas said. “I’m real proud of the personnelin our district.”

The Mississippi Report Card ranks the state’s 152 schooldistricts on information such as student-teacher data, finances,special education, career technical education and other areas. Thereport card has included accreditation data in the past, but itcurrently does not as the state is in the process of changing themethod used to compare districts and individual schools.

School attendance was a good area for Franklin County with anattendance percentage of 97.24 percent. That exceeded the stateaverage of 96.65 percent and placed the school district 43rd in thestate.

While attendance totals overall earned the district a star,Thomas expressed some concerns about students’ needing to be inclass in upper grade levels.

“We need to work on our attendance with our high school,” Thomassaid. “That’s our big area. Parents need to help encourage theirchildren to be in school.”

Echoing comments made by other area superintendents, Thomas saidstudents cannot learn if they are not in school. Also, she pointedout reduced funding implications if students are not attendingclasses.

Despite attendance concerns, Franklin County could boast of the15th-best graduation rate in the state. The county’s rate was 88.24percent was well above the state average of 76.56 percent.

In other student and teacher related areas, Franklin County wasin the top 50 with its percentage of teachers with advanced degreesand percentage of gifted students. The district’s gifted studentpercentage was 8.89 percent, which surpassed the 7.14 percent stateaverage and placed it 38th statewide.

The percentage of teachers with advanced degrees was 40.65percent, good enough for 46th place and above the state average of38.37 percent.

“It means we can attract good teachers because we have a goodschool district,” Thomas said of the teacher totals.

Thomas also touted the district’s number of nationalboard-certified instructors as a contributor to quality education.Certified teachers get a $6,000 a year supplement from the state,but the process is extensive, Thomas said.

“They deserve it when they get it,” Thomas said.

In Carnegie Unit offerings, classes that count towardgraduation, the district was a little below the state average of83.39 courses. Franklin County’s 75 units ranked it 84th statewide,which Thomas said was still good for a district its size.

District financial data was impacted to a certain extent by theHomochitto National Forest, which covers a good portion of FranklinCounty.

The forest land is not counted toward property valuation perpupil, which partly contributed to the district’s 113th ranking inthat category. The district’s valuation per student was $21,538 andwell below the state average of $32,031.

However, the district receives a good share of federal revenuein the form of severance taxes from the forest land. The district’sfederal expenditure per pupil was $1,703, which was sixth-highestin the state and more than double the $797 state average.

Overall, a total of $6,879 is spent per pupil in the Franklindistrict. That total was 14th-highest in the state and about $1,100more than the state’s $5,717 average.

Thomas said the funding situation benefits the students.

“We’re giving them every opportunity to be exposed to as manythings as they can here,” Thomas said.

Like other area districts, Franklin County’s percentage ofexpenditures for district administrative expenses was aboveaverage. According to the report card, the district spent 4.71percent, more than 1 percentage point above the state 3.46 percentaverage, on administration and placed 126th.

Thomas attributed the higher percentage to principals with manyyears of experience. She said only the district’s lower elementaryschool principal had less than 20 years of service.

“Most of them have been here quite a few years,” Thomas said.”They have a good salary because of the years they’ve beenhere.”

In an effort toward remedying the situation, Thomas mentionedsome district level personnel changes that should loweradministrative expenditures in the following year. She said dutiesof several positions have been combined.

“Some of that has been done because of the budget situation,”Thomas said.

While acknowledging that improvements are always needed, Thomassaid the Franklin County School District is above average comparedto any school district in the state and is at the top of the listwhen compared with other districts its size.

“We have a good school system,” Thomas said.

Thomas attributed the district’s success to hard-working,dedicated personnel who will “go to the Nth degree” forstudents.

“The people of Franklin County can be proud of this schooldistrict,” Thomas said. “We hope that they are proud of it and willcontinue to be proud of it.”