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Official: Grading schools important

Accountability in the school systems was the topic of discussionThursday at a Parents for Public Schools and the Public EducationForum meeting at Brookhaven High School.

The first official event in BHS’ renovated auditorium drew about100 parents and even a few grandparents who wanted to learn aboutnew accountability standards adopted by school systems across thestate.

“Our district, like every other district in the state, hasstrengths and weaknesses, and this program will help us identifyand improve upon those,” said Dr. Sam Bounds, superintendent of theBrookhaven School District.

School districts are made aware of problem areas through theresults of diagnostic assessments for grades K-2, grade leveltesting for grades 2-8, and subject area tests given at the end ofseveral high school level courses.

The Mississippi Department of Education is required to reportdistrict data annually, so that school district can make thenecessary changes to improve the quality of education.

“Public school accountability in Mississippi is not up fordebate. It’s not about if, it’s about how schools will get better,”said Susan Womack, executive director of Parents for Public Schoolsof Jackson, referring to a quote by U.S. Secretary of Education RodPaige.

Earlier this year, Womack observed Mississippians’ readiness toaccept accountability in the school systems when she attended focusgroup meetings held in communities such as Brookhaven.

“Everywhere we went there were people ready to go to work,” shesaid.

She thanked Bounds and Lincoln County Superintendent ofEducation Perry Miller for their participation in theaccountability system, pointing out that many others must expressthe same enthusiasm.

“To make this accountability system work, we’ve got to haveeveryone’s help,” said Womack. “Local districts have to take someinitiative.”

Besides the work of parents and educators, she believesbusinesses, legislators and other elected officials must show theirsupport of public education so that schools can provide the neededresources.

Panelist Bill Sones, chief executive officer of Bank ofBrookhaven, explained how supporting public education can havepositive effects on the economy.

“We depend on these public schools to provide a qualified workforce,” he said. “Research tells us over and over and over againthat poor schools provide a detriment to an area.”

He encouraged other business leaders to make it their goal to bethe best corporate citizen in the area by showing continuoussupport to public school systems. Sones has five children whograduated from Brookhaven Public Schools.

Parents were given a personal message of motivation whenpanelist Martha Wilbert talked about how to make the accountabilitysystem work both at school and at home.

“As a parent, we can support the children and the schools inaccountability by number one setting guidelines and rules,” saidWilbert.

She added that parents should make rules about their childrengetting enough sleep and going to bed at the same time every nightso they will be ready to perform at their peak every day inschool.

Wilbert also talked about the importance of parents making suretheir child’s homework is complete each night and making sure theyattend school.

“Let’s make sure that they understand that we only miss schoolif it’s absolutely necessary,” she said.

Wilbert concluded her list of suggestions by asking parents tostress the importance of education to their children through praiseand showing interest by attending school activities and askingquestions about school.

Phillip Grady, Brookhaven PPS president and chief executiveofficer of King’s Daughters Medical Center, encouraged all those inattendance to reach out to others with what they learned Thursdayso that the public school systems in the area may continue toimprove.