The Lauderdale County School District is looking to improve school safety and student achievement and upgrade its facilities and technology under a five-year strategic plan.
The goals were identified during meetings with community stakeholders, through an online survey and through campus tours by school board members, according to Superintendent John-Mark Cain.
Kelvin Jackson, president of the school board, noted the role of the community in developing the plan.
“It’s a community led effort,” he said.
Assistant Superintendent Ed Mosley said that, since the community was instrumental in creating the plan, it will be everyone’s responsibility to carry it out.
Jackson said some school facilities are aging and will require upgrades to the air conditioning, drainage and windows.
Cain said there are no plans to build new facilities. The focus will be on improving the current ones, he said. There is no timeline of when each school will see improvements, according to Cain.
“Each school might have different needs," he said.
Energy and school safety
Pending board approval, the district hopes to adopt an energy efficiency program to include LED lighting and solar panels at Northeast Lauderdale Middle School. The plans also call for improving campus safety with better lighting and fencing. The upgrades would take about eight months.
“We hope that what we will be in place by the start of next school year,” Cain said.
Since May, the district has been improving the drainage system at West Lauderdale High. That project is expected to be complete in a few weeks.
To increase teacher retention, the district has created a mentorship program, in which new teachers will be paired with veteran teachers. Cain said he hopes the veteran teachers will guide the new teachers in the teaching process, and encourage them to stay in the field.
“We want to help them out, grow them and nurture them," he said.
The district is hoping to offer one-to-one student access to technology, and find ways to make using technology easier for teachers to use in the classroom. Access to online classrooms is another possibility.
Cain said the district plans to expand technology in the middle and high schools and will eventually phase out hardcover textbooks in favor of digital textbooks.
To help students in rural areas with limited internet access, the digital textbooks could be accessed through an app that doesn't require internet access. In terms of online learning, the district is may offer programs such as Blackboard or Canvas.
Improving student success
To improve its graduation rate, the district plans to identify at-risk students by the seventh grade.
Cain said it is better to address any issues before a student reaches high school.
“We've got to do a better job of recognizing those students who have a less likelihood of graduating at an early age," he said.
Another focus will be a stronger emphasis on reading and writing in middle and high school. Cain said the biggest challenge the district could face is students using technology, but not grasping the basics of reading and writing.
“In order to be successful in the workforce, we have to be able to increase those reading gains," Cain said. "We cannot stop teaching reading in elementary school. We have to continue to do so."
Cain said the district also to improve its career and technical education programs by partnering with Meridian Community College and the Meridian Public School District.