Kindergarteners in the 2016-2017 school year made greater gains on the STAR Early Literacy exam than kindergarteners in the prior year, the Mississippi Department of Education announced. Close to 37,000 kindergarteners took the test in both the fall and spring. The state average score for the fall test was 502 compared to 710 on the spring test. In 2015-2016, the score for the fall test was 502 compared to 703 in the spring. “Mississippi kindergarten teachers are continuing to do a great job helping students build the foundational literacy skills they need to be successful throughout their education,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate said Thursday he needs more information before making a decision in the Franklin County School District’s request to be released from a nearly 50-year-old federal desegregation order. Although the hearing on the district’s petition concluded Thursday following testimony on behalf of the school district and from some residents opposed to the district’s request, Wingate announced from the bench that he wants the school district and the U.S. Justice Department to file additional information in three weeks. Testimony concluded Thursday with school board President Gloria Hayes Defending the district’s hiring practices and budget. School board attorney Lane Reed questioned Hayes, an African-American who attended Franklin County schools and has served on the board for 16 years. He asked whether the district discriminates on the basis of race in its hiring.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate on Tuesday continued to hear testimony from individuals opposed to the federal government releasing the Franklin County School District from the court’s oversight. The hearing was set after the U.S. Department of Justice announced in June that it would no longer oppose the school district’s motion for declaration of unitary status — its push for the court to release it from federal oversight. Frank Jenkins, the African-American parent of children in the school district and a pastor at a local church, said his daughter was unfairly denied the title of valedictorian when she graduated in 2006. The honor was instead given to a white student, and his daughter was not given her salutatorian trophy until 2013 when an employee of the district found it in a trash can at the school and brought it to him to pass on to his daughter, Jenkins testified. “She still wears the scars of what happened to her in Franklin County School District,” Jenkins said of his daughter, who went on to graduate from the honors college at Ole Miss and with a graduate degree from Mississippi College.
Five Franklin County School District employees, parents and community members testified in federal court on Monday that there is still racial discrimination in the district’s hiring process and treatment of black staff and students and the district should not be released from federal oversight. U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate questioned the witnesses at a fairness hearing. The hearing was set after the U.S. Department of Justice announced in June that it would no longer oppose the school district’s motion for declaration of unitary status — its push for the court to release it from federal oversight. Wingate said he will hear on Tuesday from two to three more community members who are opposed to a declaration of unitary status in the district, along with several witnesses who will testify on behalf of the school district. He said the U.S. Department of Justice has not yet indicated whether it will put forward any witnesses.
An innovative program put together by the Vicksburg-Warren School District and the county’s Chamber of Commerce was celebrated Thursday when the Ford Motor Company Fund designated the Vicksburg Warren College & Career Academies as a Ford Next Generation Learning Community. This makes Vicksburg Warren the first district in the state to achieve the distinction. The district and Chamber of Commerce put together a three-year plan to transform its high schools with input from Ford Next Generation Learning, and the result was the Vicksburg Warren College and Career Academies. Students in the academies learn academics through the lens of a particular career, such as engineering, healthcare, technology or marketing. They also have the opportunity to participate in internships, job shadowing and other activities.
The Mississippi Department of Education is holding a lottery on July 14 to award 58 Education Scholarship Accounts for the upcoming school year. The Education Scholarship Accounts provide funds to parents of students with disabilities who want to remove their child from a public school and seek educational services elsewhere. Recipients of the scholarship are eligible to be reimbursed up to $6,494 in costs next year. The Legislature passed the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act in 2015. This school year, the law allows for up to 435 ESA accounts.