South MS superintendents share concerns, needs with state lawmakers

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - South Mississippi education leaders and state lawmakers sat side-by-side for a candid discussion on how to make our schools even better. The school superintendents wanted to share their education priorities with coast lawmakers as they prepare for the 2013 legislative session.

On Tuesday, they sat down in Gulfport to talk about their needs, programs that are working, and what needs to be fixed. The brain storming session gave both sides a chance to have an open dialogue on the state of education today.

"There are too many schools in Mississippi where we're not holding communities responsible for the quality of the schools that are in their community," Pascagoula Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich commented.

"Every teacher that gives that test gets held responsible for it. If they don't produce, then they need to go," said Harrison County Schools Superintendent Henry Arledge.

The school leaders heard about the State Department of Education's needs for the upcoming legislative session.  At the top of the list is fully funding the Mississippi Adequate Education Program. It's a funding formula designed to give each child equal access to an adequate education.

"We know we're funded at the bottom of the barrel when you compare us to other states, but we also know the superintendents in this room have done everything they can to handle those cuts over time," said Dr. Lynn House, Interim MS Superintendent of Education.

Full MAEP funding is also one of four legislative priorities for the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. The others are teacher pay raises, a more stable state retirement system, and putting charter schools under the control of the State Board of Education.

"Any charter school, if it's a public school, should be held to the same exact accountability as any other public school. How are you going to know if they're succeeding?" asked Dr. Sam Bounds, MASS Executive Director. "We feel if charters are to be effective, let's place it in districts that really matter."

Much of the discussion focused on the need to tweak the current accountability system; basically, come up with a better way to measure student achievement and growth.

"We just like an accountability system that's easily explained, easily understood, and easily communicated to our parents and our teachers. We have a task force now that's working on that," said Bounds.

"We don't need to throw the baby out with the bath wash, because we're doing some good things," he added. "We just need to build on the good things and correct what negatives we may have. "

The superintendents also talked about funding for pre-K programs, drop-out prevention, and preparing students for the tougher Common Core State Standards that are being phased-in to all Mississippi schools.

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