Meeting puts new focus on student help

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A singular theme rang out in the halls ofMt. Wade Missionary Baptist Church Sunday as education leaders,church leaders, parents and students gathered for OperationEducation to discuss academic achievement in the Brookhaven SchoolDistrict.

    Proclaiming “Together, we can make a difference,” guest speakersfrom the district and the Mississippi Scholars program talked abouttheir goals of promoting academic success and its importance inpreparing the youth of the community for the adult world.

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    The operation comes in the wake of new labels released from theMississippi Department of Education for 2011. The Brookhaven SchoolDistrict went from a “successful” rating in 2010 to “academicwatch.”

    Superintendent Dr. Lisa Karmacharya outlined the district’s goalsfor academic achievement beginning with effective communicationamong schools and parents.

    “Clarity is important,” she said. “Sometimes what we mean to sayisn’t what comes out, and sometimes what’s heard is not what wasmeant.”

    She explained the district’s new website is consistently updatedand exists to keep everyone informed of district activities.

    Consistency in purpose and effort, Karmacharya continued, isanother important goal that must be met in order for students toprogress.

    “All children have to meet the same goal,” she explained. “Thereare specific goals that have to be met to graduate high school.Consistency in the classrooms is needed to meet thosestandards.”

    She went on to say leadership roles throughout each position in thedistrict are paramount in learning.

    “Whether it’s a principal, a bus driver, an assistant teacher or ateacher, we need to realize we’re leading children directly andindirectly,” she said.

    She concluded by stressing the need for parents and school leadersto change the mindset of accepting the status quo, to challengethemselves and the children in order to achieve progress.

    Dr. Jay Smith, principal of Brookhaven High School, relayed theimportance of ACT testing and GPA for high school students.

    “Take it seriously,” he said. “Take it early in ninth or 10thgrade, and take it repeatedly.”

    He explained by taking it early, students should not expect greatresults, but the practice and experience that comes from taking itearly will prepare them to achieve the best they can as juniors andseniors.

    Smith went on to say the lower a student’s ACT score, the highertheir GPA must be to get into college. He encouraged parents tocontact the school if they had concerns about their child’sgraduation.

    “We’re more than happy to sit with parents and see if their studentis on track for graduation,” he said.

    On that note, BSD Director of Accreditation and District TestingCoordinator Stephanie Henderson spoke.

    “Do not wait until your child is a senior to worry about theireducation or graduation,” Henderson said. “If you have a2-month-old, your concern about their senior year should startnow.”

    She talked about state testing and how students must pass the bigfour – Algebra I, Biology I, English II and U.S. History – in orderto graduate.

    “They can take them as many times until they pass,” she said.

    However, she said, retesting is only offered certain timesthroughout the year. She explained opportunities are given foremergency testing just before graduation, but they are notguaranteed.

    She echoed the urges of the other speakers as she said it wasimportant for parents to contact counselors, herself or Smith abouttheir child’s needs.

    Debra Price spoke about the dual enrollment program throughCopiah-Lincoln Community College and its benefits to Brookhavenhigh students.

    “The cost is half of what it would be as a regular freshman incollege,” she said. “The classes are smaller and students work witha familiar teacher. Also, students get a sense of what it’s like tobe a college student.”

    Terrence Turner, of the Mississippi Scholars Program, wrapped upthe operation as he spoke about the importance for parents to standup and take charge in guiding their children’s futures.

    “We don’t have a child problem,” he said. “We have a parentingproblem. It’s a village thing. I’m glad we’re coming from behindthe pulpit and doing something. The village has stood up and saidenough is enough.”