Pass, Long Beach school leaders share secrets to academic success

This year, Pass Christian High School has four National Merit semi-finalists, which is the highest number for a school in the southern region. (Photo source: WLOX)
This year, Pass Christian High School has four National Merit semi-finalists, which is the highest number for a school in the southern region. (Photo source: WLOX)
For five straight years, the Pass Christian School District has ranked number one in Mississippi. (Photo source: WLOX)
For five straight years, the Pass Christian School District has ranked number one in Mississippi. (Photo source: WLOX)
At Coast Episcopal School, students get a hands on lesson by growing an edible garden. (Photo source: WLOX)
At Coast Episcopal School, students get a hands on lesson by growing an edible garden. (Photo source: WLOX)
Coast Episcopal School is working with the Mississippi Arts Commission to integrate the arts into the curriculum. (Photo source: WLOX)
Coast Episcopal School is working with the Mississippi Arts Commission to integrate the arts into the curriculum. (Photo source: WLOX)

PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - For five straight years, the Pass Christian School District has ranked number one in Mississippi. On Thursday, the Pass Christian Chamber of Commerce invited the superintendent and the principals of two nearby private schools to speak at its first "Focus on Education" breakfast. They shared their visions for academic success.

The honors keep piling up for the Pass Christian School District. This year, Pass High has four National Merit semi-finalists, which is the highest number for a school in the southern region. And that's not all.

"The [Pass] high school ACT is higher than the nation. When people say Mississippi schools are so pitiful, no," said Pass Christian Superintendent Beth John.

John shared some of the district's achievements over the years with Chamber members and community leaders in the Pass. She talked about the district's beliefs that drive the staff's commitment to excellence.

"We believe our students will excel, and especially when they are presented with curriculum that's challenging and progressive. They want to be challenged," said John.

"At the elementary schools, we have opportunities for them to participate in gifted programs, in robotics, and we do a lot of work in STEM these days. At the middle school, our children are also participating in the farm to table, growing produce for use in the summer program. At the high school, we're really preparing them for college and careers," she said.

"We have a lot of unique activities for our kids," Carol Church told the crowd.

Church is the new principal of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. She's most proud of the school's updated technology, unique programs like a public speaking course, and community service projects.

"We can promote responsibility, leadership skills, and Christian values while forming those important academic skills as well," she said.

Coast Episcopal School is also focused on innovative programs, like working with the Mississippi Arts Commission to integrate the arts into the curriculum and growing an edible garden.

"It's so important that we look at the whole child. We have such an obligation to these young people, to help them grow and maintain some of the things that we know are so important for this lifelong learning," said Coast Episcopal Principal Betsy Grant.

"One is to teach children just old fashioned grit, just get in there and do it anyway. If it's hard, so be it. And also curiosity. It's about developing character, so you make the right decisions, so you learn to problem solve."

Pass Christian's superintendent said the enrollment in the district has risen to a record high with 2,018 students this year.

"In September after Katrina, we had about 1,300 students and that was devastating to us," said John. "Since Katrina, we have gained 675 students. So the Pass is back and we're glad to hear that."

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