The Jackson Public School District will not see transformative change without the community’s help — that was the message stressed at the second meeting of the Better Together Commission.
The 15-member task force met inside a packed community room in the Lincoln Gardens apartment complex in Jackson Thursday to continue the business of averting a state takeover and outlining a timeline for the next steps.
The commission was announced in October as part of a partnership between Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, the City of Jackson and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to avoid a Mississippi Department of Education takeover of JPS.
The group is tasked with expanding community engagement and helping to understand the district’s problems by leading the search for an entity to conduct a comprehensive report of the district.
The cost of the search and evaluation will be covered by the Kellogg Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Battle Creek, Mich. The Barksdale Reading Institute and Education Commission of the States (ECS), of which Bryant is chairman, also will be involved.
“We can’t get this done without you all,” said member Charles McClelland, who also serves on the Mississippi State Board of Education. “We want you all to be involved and we want you all to give us feedback.”
Commission member Yumeka Burt Rushing, a program officer with the Kellogg Foundation, gave an overview and general timeline. Priorities include conducting listening sessions either by city ward or school district feeder pattern and releasing a report on those sessions in the beginning of next year, as well as working with the school board to hire a firm to conduct a search for the next superintendent.
The group will will work with a not-yet identified company to canvass Jackson neighborhoods and ask a goal of 30,000 households their thoughts and opinions about the district. Rushing said the questions asked will be informed by the results of the listening sessions and data from an earlier study conducted by Working Together Jackson.
During the meeting, members split into two subcommittees to discuss how to issue a request for proposal and community engagement, respectively. While they met, the audience also split into two groups to have a conversation about what they wanted out of the process.
The timeline for issuing the request for proposal is subject to change, members said, but the commission intends to give notice that one will be issued on Nov. 20 so candidates to conduct the study of JPS know to expect it. The document should be finalized and approved by Nov. 30 and released to the public on Dec. 4. The commission will review the submissions and interview candidates in January and hopefully the winning group will begin its work in February, members said.
Kellogg Foundation communications manager Robyn Rosenthal attended the meeting via teleconference and told the audience they hope to have a website up and running in early December for the community to share input on the process and stay up to date with the commission’s work. Anyone with questions or suggestions is welcome to contact firstname.lastname@example.org, she said.
The next commission meeting will take place on Nov. 30 at Bailey APAC Middle School at 4:30 p.m.