Jason Thompson with Farenheit Creative Group speaks to the JPS Better Together Commission on Thursday.

The community believes the Jackson Public School District is in trouble but teachers are its greatest asset, according to a poll conducted for the city’s Better Together Commission.

Those were the key points discussed at a Better Together Commission meeting held Thursday to discuss progress on community engagement efforts. Jennifer Johnson presented the results of a poll conducted by New Orleans-based LJR Custom Strategies, which surveyed 500 adults via phone in Jackson in late January.

While 82 percent of those surveyed said they care deeply about what is going on in the schools, just 18 percent said they believe the district is “on the right track.”

When asked what was the best part of the district, teachers drew the largest response,  with 27 percent.

Johnson said this answer was a surprise: “Compared to what I’ve seen elsewhere, to have over a quarter (of respondents) volunteer that they’re the biggest asset that Jackson Public Schools have is striking.”

When asked what was the biggest concern about the district, 26 percent said quality of education. Students and families came in second, followed by safety and school learning environments.

Johnson said only 38 percent of respondents said they were familiar with the commission, created last fall by Gov. Phil Bryant as an alternative to a state Board of Educatiion recommendation that the district be taken over by state education officials.

The group held two official meetings last fall and hosted a series of community listening sessions in December, but Thursday’s meeting was the first public meeting of this year.

Kate England of Insight Education Group briefed the commission on the five target areas the California-based consultant will tackle with its study of the district. The commission announced last month that Insight was chosen to conduct a 10-month study of the district and present those findings at the end of the year.

England works out of Connecticut and attended the meeting via phone. She said Insight will take a look at communications, special education and struggling students, general education students, central office staff and district finances.

The commission will continue its community engagement efforts later this month when a separate consultant is set to begin canvassing the city to have 10 to 15 minute conversations with citizens about the district. That process is expected to take six to eight weeks.

Future Better Together Meetings will take place on the last Thursday of each month at the Margaret Walker Alexander Library at 4:15 p.m.


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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Skinner most recently served as deputy managing editor before assuming the role of managing editor. Kayleigh has a bachelor’s in journalism from the School of Journalism and New Media from the University of Mississippi. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.