Education efforts topic of breakfast

Published 9:33 pm Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Leaders of Lincoln County schools had the opportunity to speakabout their schools and about education Tuesday morning at theChamber of Commerce’s quarterly breakfast.

Representatives from the Brookhaven School District, Lincoln CountySchool District, Mississippi School of the Arts, Brookhaven Academyand Copiah-Lincoln Community College spoke.

JoAnna Sproles, the Brookhaven district’s public relationscoordinator, spoke for superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya whocould not attend.

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Sproles addressed school rankings recently released by theMississippi Department of Education in which the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict saw some decreases. The district wide ranking fell from”Successful” to “Academic Watch.”

“There was a little bump,” Sproles said. “We are working very hardto make sure all schools are high performing.”

Sproles discussed Karmacharya’s three goals for the district. Thefirst is effective communication and the second is consistency.Sproles said these goals are related because the district is spreadacross seven schools with different administrations and differentneeds at each school.

Some of the steps to move toward these goals have been the additionof school Facebook and Twitter pages, which Sproles manages anduses to communicate district news.

Sproles called the third goal “leaders in learning.”

Sproles explained this goal as an emphasis on the role of alldistrict employees in education.

“Everyone from the janitors on up to Karmacharya’s office has theopportunity to be a leader,” Sproles said.

Karmacharya has also set up three advisory committees, one each forteachers, parents and community members, and students. She willmeet with those committees throughout the school year to hear theirinput on district issues.

Suzanne Hirsch, executive director of MSA, discussed the growth MSAhas seen. There are current 141 students, up by 70 students fromlast year.

“This is the most students we have had since the year of(Hurricane) Katrina,” Hirsch said.

Those numbers don’t just indicate statewide numbers, though. Hirschalso said the school currently has the most students in its historyfrom Lincoln County and the surrounding area.

“This shows we’re starting to get more investment from the familiesin the area,” Hirsch said.

The school also sees academic success alongside its students’artistic success. The school’s latest ACT profile shows itsstudents performing higher than the national average in all areasof the ACT, Hirsch said.

Dr. Jane Hulon, Co-Lin vice president of instructional services,discussed the school’s enrollment numbers. The last few years haveseen growth in enrollment, with 4,000 students spread across itsthree campuses last year. The current year has seen a drop, withabout 3,700 students enrolled. Hulon said this is in line withstatewide trends.

“We are seeing that decline at colleges across the state,” Hulonsaid.

Hulon talked sports, mentioning that the school’s stadium at theWesson campus now has new bleachers and its football games arestreamed on the Internet.

Valerie Oglesby, BA’s director of development spoke for HeadmasterMike Sumlin.

Oglesby began by emphasizing the importantance of BA to thecommunity.

“For Lincoln County to be successful, we need the public schools tobe strong but we also need a strong private school,” Oglesbysaid.

Oglesby said that without a private school in Lincoln County,parents who wished to send their children to private schools wouldgo outside the county, which could have negative consequences forthe county.

“Most people live where their kids go to school,” Oglesbysaid.

BA plans to begin a fundraising drive in January to construct acreative arts building at the school. This would allow expansion ofthe music program and the ability to perform drama and provide anauditorium, which the school currently lacks.

Finally, Lincoln County Superintendent Terry Brister spoke,emphasizing the strengths he sees in his district.

“Lincoln County schools have grown to be the largest in southwestMississippi,” Brister said. “All of our schools are growing.”

The Lincoln County district has one of the largest fund balances inthe southwest region of the state, Brister said.

“When we build a new building, we don’t issue a bond. We write acheck,” Brister said.

Brister also addressed the state school rankings. In the mostrecent rankings, the Lincoln County district moved up to Successfulfrom Academic watch, but Bogue Chitto and Enterprise remain onAcademic Watch.

Brister said many things related to student success are outside theability of the school to change. He emphasized the need forparental involvement.

“If parents would take over, dropout prevention would be a thing ofthe past,” Brister said. “Dropout prevention, tests, going toschool, it all starts at home.”

Brister said many people now expect schools to raise theirchildren, but that is not his expectation.

“I’m old fashioned,” he said.