Tag Archives: superintendents

House may offer way for school districts to bypass voters and take on more debt

House Education Committee Chairman John Moore, R-Brandon, who’s sponsoring the bill says districts would like a chance to borrow again.

“In the areas where there’s need for more school buildings, more classroom space, it probably would be an advantage,” Moore said.

His bill would increase the amount of money a district could pledge to $195 per student per year. That may not sound like much. But n a 2,300-student district — the typical size in Mississippi — it would generate nearly $450,000 a year. That would be enough to borrow more than $6 million at 4 percent nterest over 20 years.

That much money is probably not enough to build a new elementary school or a high school. But it’s enough for a new classroom wing or to renovate a school, said Michae Waldrop, executive director of the Mississippi School Boards Association.


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Mississippi Superintendent of Education asks for $305 million to fund MAEP

According to reports:

Mississippi’s top education official is requesting an additional $305 million for the coming year – a request he acknowledges is unlikely to be fulfilled.

State Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham says the biggest part of the request is $255 million to meet requirements of a complex funding formula.

The formula, called the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, was put into state law in 1997. It attempts to give each school district enough money to meet midlevel academic standards.

MAEP was underfunded by $237 million in the current budget year, which started last July 1. Burnham says the formula would add $18 million for the coming year, bringing the total growth to $255 million.

Burnham is favorably positioning himself with a request for more money for a failing system, and last week he tried to continue to position the State Dept. of Education to be the single authorizing authority in any charter school law to come out of the legislature.



Filed under Education, Legislature, Mississippi, Politics, Spending, State Government, Superintendents, Teachers

Legislative Priority–Appointed Superintendents of Education

Appointed versus elected school superintendents is a topic that has been debated for years and if things go as State Rep. Gary Chism (R-Columbus) plans, it’s a topic that will no doubt lead to further debate in the Mississippi Legislature this January.

Chism has introduced 12 bills trying to mandate appointed superintendents since his 1999 election to the state House of Representatives. However,  every time the issue comes up for a vote, it is defeated.

The legislation has the backing of the Mississippi Board of Education, which plans to discuss the matter at its annual leadership conference in November.

“One of the Mississippi Board of Education’s 2012 legislative priorities is appointed superintendents,” said Wendy Polk, the state board’s director of communication. “The Mississippi Board of Education supports appointment of all school district superintendents.”

Mississippi uses county and city districts, as well as special and consolidated districts. The state’s special districts are unique only in name when compared with county and city districts. However, consolidated districts combine one or two more local school boards to provide better services to students.

“Only 147 of the nation’s approximately 14,500 school districts have elected superintendents,” added Polk. “Alabama, Florida and Mississippi are the only three states that elect superintendents.”

via To elect or not to elect » Local News » Leader Call.

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Mississippi Department of Education Accountability Status Ratings Map

This maps shows the new MS Dept. of Education Accountability Status ratings for each school district that were released Sept.16,2011.


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Fran Tarkenton: What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? – WSJ.com


Imagine the National Football League in an alternate reality. Each player’s salary is based on how long he’s been in the league. It’s about tenure, not talent. The same scale is used for every player, no matter whether he’s an All-Pro quarterback or the last man on the roster. For every year a player’s been in this NFL, he gets a bump in pay. The only difference between Tom Brady and the worst player in the league is a few years of step increases. And if a player makes it through his third season, he can never be cut from the roster until he chooses to retire, except in the most extreme cases of misconduct.

Let’s face the truth about this alternate reality: The on-field product would steadily decline. Why bother playing harder or better and risk getting hurt?

No matter how much money was poured into the league, it wouldn’t get better. In fact, in many ways the disincentive to play harder or to try to stand out would be even stronger with more money.

Of course, a few wild-eyed reformers might suggest the whole system was broken and needed revamping to reward better results, but the players union would refuse to budge and then demonize the reform advocates: “They hate football. They hate the players. They hate the fans.” The only thing that might get done would be building bigger, more expensive stadiums and installing more state-of-the-art technology. But that just wouldn’t help.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, the NFL in this alternate reality is the real -life American public education system. Teachers’ salaries have no relation to whether teachers are actually good at their job—excellence isn’t rewarded, and neither is extra effort. Pay is almost solely determined by how many years they’ve been teaching. That’s it. After a teacher earns tenure, which is often essentially automatic, firing him or her becomes almost impossible, no matter how bad the performance might be. And if you criticize the system, you’re demonized for hating teachers and not believing in our nation’s children.

Inflation-adjusted spending per student in the United States has nearly tripled since 1970. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, we spend more per student than any nation except Switzerland, with only middling results to show for it.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve been told that a big part of the problem is crumbling schools—that with new buildings and computers in every classroom, everything would improve. But even though spending on facilities and equipment has more than doubled since 1989 (again adjusted for inflation), we’re still not seeing results, and officials assume the answer is that we haven’t spent enough.

These same misguided beliefs are front and center in President Obama’s jobs plan, which includes billions for “public school modernization.” The popular definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. We’ve been spending billions of dollars on school modernization for decades, and I suspect we could keep on doing it until the end of the world, without much in the way of academic results. The only beneficiaries are the teachers unions.

Some reformers, including Bill Gates, are finally catching on that our federally centralized, union-created system provides no incentive for better performance. If anything, it penalizes those who work hard because they spend time, energy and their own money to help students, only to get the same check each month as the worst teacher in the district (or an even smaller one, if that teacher has been there longer). Is it any surprise, then, that so many good teachers burn out or become disenchanted?

Perhaps no other sector of American society so demonstrates the failure of government spending and interference. We’ve destroyed individual initiative, individual innovation and personal achievement, and marginalized anyone willing to point it out. As one of my coaches used to say, “You don’t get vast results with half-vast efforts!”

The results we’re looking for are students learning, so we need to reward great teachers who show they can make that happen—and get rid of bad teachers who don’t get the job done. It’s what we do in every other profession: If you’re good, you get rewarded, and if you’re not, then you look for other work. It’s fine to look for ways to improve the measuring tools, but don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Our rigid, top-down, union-dictated system isn’t working. If results are the objective, then we need to loosen the reins, giving teachers the ability to fulfill their responsibilities to students to the best of their abilities, not to the letter of the union contract and federal standards.

Mr. Tarkenton, an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback with the Minnesota Vikings and the New York Giants from 1961 to 1978, is an entrepreneur who runs two websites devoted to small business education.

via Fran Tarkenton: What if the NFL Played by Teachers’ Rules? – WSJ.com.

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Schools: Appoint superintendents | The Clarion-Ledger | clarionledger.com


Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

There is one major education reform in Mississippi that could be accomplished easily and would not cost anything – requiring that all school superintendents be appointed.

Electing school superintendents is a throwback to another era when small community school districts voted on school leaders.

It sounds so democratic. But it simply is bad policy that restricts a community from recruiting the best and allowing that professional educator to operate with independence needed to succeed.

Mississippi elects 64 school superintendents in its 152 school districts. To put that in perspective, only 147 of the nation’s 14,500 school districts elect superintendents.

This is not to criticize any of the state’s elected superintendents, many of whom are dedicated professionals. However, the system of electing a superintendent is a hindrance to any of them.

First of all, electing a superintendent restricts the applicant pool for what should be a purely professional position. An elected superintendent, like any official, must live in the district, which excludes educators from other areas who might be better qualified. It prevents a district from seeking the best and the brightest.

Second, electing a superintendent puts the emphasis on a prospective school leader’s political prowess rather than on his or her educational and administrative talents. Someone who might be the best administrator and visionary school leader might be a terrible politician. Running a school district certainly takes political and people skills, but those attributes should be secondary to professional qualifications and abilities as an administrator.

Finally, an elected superintendent is subject to the same political pressures any other elected official might face, including the transient political passions and whims of voters.

While any superintendent must be attentive to public desires, he or she also must be independent and have the ability to stand up to popular opinion when it is not in the best interest of schoolchildren.

In other words, a superintendent needs to be independent, stubbornly and doggedly so if necessary. An elected superintendent cannot do that, especially if he or she has eyes on the next election.

Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, has tried repeatedly to gain approval of a bill to require all superintendents be appointed.

State education leaders, good government and education groups support appointive superintendents. Yet, those efforts have been defeated for the same reasons electing superintendents is a bad idea – politics.

Chism should keep pushing.

Mississippi needs the best people leading school districts and the best way to recruit and hire the best superintendents is through appointing them.

via Schools: Appoint superintendents | The Clarion-Ledger | clarionledger.com.


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Mississippi Educators–Please read this . . . .

Cover of "Character Strengths and Virtues...

Cover via Amazon

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” 
John Wooden 

Below is an excerpt from a NYT article on education. The entire article is a long read, but a good one for anyone interested in truly educating children, and looking outside of the box that we find our kids trapped in today. We are destined to begin hearing calls soon to fully fund MAEP for the next legislative session. But, wouldn’t it be fresh and inspiring to see Superintendents, Teachers, and lobbying groups like the Parents Campaign and the Association of Educators to instead start looking at new ways to educate kids. Our education discussions should be about benefits to children and their contributions to Mississippi rather than just about formulating data and the amount of money that can be thrown around.

Before I begin getting hate mail, let me say up front that I’m a big supporter of teachers. Teachers do an incredible job with resources that never match up to the need. I get it. But, how many have looked closely at the amount of money that is spent on administrative costs? Superintendents salaries? Superintendent’s pensions? That’s money that could be going to fund new and inspiring ways to educate; charter schools, vouchers, and vocational training.

I encourage you to click the link below the article and read the entire article.

Afterward, go to this LINK and vote and comment.

Hat tip to my friend Senator Michael Watson ,a leader in the Mississippi Senate on Education issues, for pointing out this one.

Keith P.

What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? – NYTimes.com

For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”

The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that.”

Randolph has been pondering throughout his 23-year career as an educator the question of whether and how schools should impart good character. It has often felt like a lonely quest, but it has led him in some interesting directions. In the winter of 2005, Randolph read “Learned Optimism,” a book by Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania who helped establish the Positive Psychology movement. Randolph found the book intriguing, and he arranged a meeting with the author. As it happened, on the morning that Randolph made the trip to Philadelphia, Seligman had scheduled a separate meeting with David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools and the superintendent of the KIPP schools in New York City. Seligman decided he might as well combine the two meetings, and he invited Christopher Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan, who was also visiting Penn that day, to join him and Randolph and Levin in his office for a freewheeling discussion of psychology and schooling.

Levin had also spent many years trying to figure out how to provide lessons in character to his students, who were almost all black or Latino and from low-income families. At the first KIPP school, in Houston, he and his co-founder, Michael Feinberg, filled the walls with slogans like “Work Hard” and “Be Nice” and “There Are No Shortcuts,” and they developed a system of rewards and demerits designed to train their students not only in fractions and algebra but also in perseverance and empathy. Like Randolph, Levin went to Seligman’s office expecting to talk about optimism. But Seligman surprised them both by pulling out a new and very different book, which he and Peterson had just finished: “Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification,” a scholarly, 800-page tome that weighed in at three and a half pounds. It was intended, according to the authors, as a “manual of the sanities,” an attempt to inaugurate what they described as a “science of good character.”

It was, in other words, exactly what Randolph and Levin had been looking for, separately, even if neither of them had quite known it. Seligman and Peterson consulted works from Aristotle to Confucius, from the Upanishads to the Torah, from the Boy Scout Handbook to profiles of Pokémon characters, and they settled on 24 character strengths common to all cultures and eras. The list included some we think of as traditional noble traits, like bravery, citizenship, fairness, wisdom and integrity; others that veer into the emotional realm, like love, humor, zest and appreciation of beauty; and still others that are more concerned with day-to-day human interactions: social intelligence (the ability to recognize interpersonal dynamics and adapt quickly to different social situations), kindness, self-regulation, gratitude.

via What if the Secret to Success Is Failure? – NYTimes.com.

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