SOCSD leaders preview 2018-2019 school year

Charlie Benton
Staff Writer

All students of the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District return to school today to begin the 2018-2019 school year.

In preparation, the SDN sat down with Superintendent Eddie Peasant, Assistant Superintendent Christy Maulding, Assistant Superintendent David Baggett and Assistant Superintendent Anna Guntharp to discuss the district’s plans for the upcoming year, and any changes students and parents may notice.


Prior to the beginning of the school year, the district rolled out its new strategic plan at theJuly school board meeting. The document is intended to shape every move the district makes for the next five years. The plan lays out five specific areas to focus on and the district’s means of reaching them. The document also includes a new mission statement and seven core values of the district.

“It’s really going to be part of everything that we do,” Peasant said. “Those five goals are how we do everything.”

The strategic plan goals are academic achievement, school culture, human resources, community collaboration and operational effectiveness.

Peasant called the plan the “engine” for the district.

“Whether it’s bus drivers, or people who work in the cafeteria, all of that, our human resources will be driven by that,” Peasant said. “Then our community collaboration, as I mentioned earlier, how we work with our local businesses, community, local government, whether it’s the business community, the Partnership, and of course families and how we relate to families.”


The district will also operate three pre-K classrooms with the potential for more later on. Two classrooms will be located at Sudduth Elementary and one at West. The program is separate from the pre-K classrooms located at the Emerson Preschool.

Guntharp said all 60 slots had filled up across the three classrooms.

“We started working in January getting those plans together, and held our first pre-registration,” Guntharp said. “Those classes are complete now, and we have a waiting list, so we hope to add another classroom if funding becomes available next year. If we have additional funding next year, we would love to see that program expand.”

Pre-K students will use the Opening the World of Learning (OWL) curriculum, an early literacy and numeracy program. The program follows the state’s early learning standards.

“The teachers have already received professional development on that program so they’re ready to go,” Guntharp said.

Peasant emphasized the importance of pre-K for students to be kindergarten-ready, saying students who did not attend some sort of pre-K program would come to kindergarten behind and struggling to catch up.

“They move really quickly into learning to read in kindergarten now, so the pre-K is building the foundation for kindergarten,” Guntharp said.


Freshmen at Starkville High School will now become part of an academic institute program through their high school journey.

The program will separate students as they go through high school based on career paths and interests.

The model has been used with success at other high schools across the country.

The program will begin with every ninth grader coming into SHS going through a freshman focus course.

“Every ninth grader is going to go through that freshman focus class, and they will be exposed to the 16 career clusters just to help them know what they don’t know to be thinking about career possibilities, a lot more project-based learning and research involved with that, field trips to visit local industries,” Maulding said.

She said the institutes would follow the student through SHS as they made decisions for their future. She also said the curriculum at the Partnership School would tie into the institutes once it was complete.

“The (Partnership) School is going to be a great segue to that, especially being on the university campus and having access to different programs of study and working with faculty there to help develop interests even as low as sixth and seventh grade,” Maulding said.

Peasant said in the process of creating the institutes, the district had looked both at careers common in the Golden Triangle and at careers projected to be needed in the future.

He also said several local businesses were in support of the institutes.

“This gives our students the opportunity to explore careers a lot earlier than they have in the past, and also gives them some training in those areas which they’ve expressed interest in,” Peasant said. “It prepares them in that they are taking classes that will prepare them for success at the next level.”

Peasant also said the model would give students the opportunity to change paths if they decide they do not like the direction they are headed.


The district has also switched Starkville High School to a five-by-five schedule, consisting of five 76-minute blocks every day.

Maulding said the district would also use certain days as 60-percent days with delayed start for the purpose of professional development for teachers.

The delayed start days are: Sept.11, Oct. 8, Nov.6, and Feb. 7.

Starting times for all schools have also been changed to facilitate a more efficient bus schedule. A tracking app is also available on the district website to allow parents to track their children’s buses.

“I think we made great strides last year, and we’re looking to build upon that now,” Baggett said. “We’ve looked at the things that we’re doing good and we’re working on the things that we need to to better serve our students and staff.”


The Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District has made some changes to its start and end times to facilitate efficient use of buses.

The new times are as follows:
Sudduth Elementary will start at 7:30 a.m. and dismiss at 2:45 p.m.

Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary will start at 7:30 a.m. and dismiss at 2:45 p.m.

Overstreet Elementary will start at 7:35 a.m. and dismiss at 2:50 p.m.

West Elementary will start at 7:30 a.m. and dismiss at 2:45 p.m.

Armstrong Middle School will start at 8:20 a.m. and dismiss at 3:35 p.m.

Starkville High School and the Millsaps Career and Technology Center will start at 8:40 a.m. and dismiss at 3:55 p.m.

The East School will start at 8 a.m. and dismiss at 2:30 p.m.