By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
The Starkville School District Board of Trustees may not be able to begin interviewing candidates for the superintendent position until January, Board President Keith Coble said during the regular board meeting last night.
The district received 23 applications from eight states for the position. The Mississippi School Board Association now has the task of reviewing the applications, checking references and performing initial interviews. MSBA will put the information into a report for the board.
Coble said MSBA would not give him a firm date on when the board would receive the report, but it would not likely happen before December. Representatives from MSBA will likely come to meet with the board in executive session to discuss the report before the pool is narrowed down to candidates that the board would like to interview.
“Since we’re uncertain as to when we might get that report and we’re running up onto the holidays, let me just throw out a hypothetical situation: If we got the report on Dec. 5, do we want to move forward quickly before the holiday break or do we defer and pick up again after the first of the year?” Coble said. “If we don’t get the report before Dec. 15, then it’s decided for us.”
Until MSBA completes the report, the board will not have a timeline for the interview process.
Interim Superintendent Beth Sewell gave a report on the student achievement performance during the first nine weeks of the school year. Both Henderson Intermediate School and Armstrong Middle School increased their Quality Distribution Index scores during the first nine weeks compared to the end of last school year, while Ward Stewart Elementary and Starkville High School’s scores each decreased. Sewell said the scores weren’t anything to worry about and teachers were identifying any problems using the Easy Test Tracker system and making adjustments accordingly.
The system allows teachers to track their students throughout the year and provide instant data on their performance so the teacher does not have to wait for state testing results to make adjustments.
“(Easy Test Tracker) is just a phenomenal tool to be able to hand the teacher. I just think this is just incredible that the teacher can be given all of this data on their individual students,” Board member Pickett Wilson said. “If there was just a way we could get across to the public — the parents especially — that this is not teaching the test, this is testing the curriculum.”
Sewell agreed with Wilson, saying the system helped the students know what skills or areas they needed to work on and it was given them a new sense of achievement within the schools.
In other news, there was some discussion regarding providing funding to two different groups for trips — the Armstrong Lego Robotics Team, which will travel to the state competition in Hattiesburg in December, and the SHS Singers, which will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in March. Both groups are asking for one third of their total cost: $566 for the Robotics Team and $9,066 for the SHS Singers. The board has a budget of $15,000 per school year to provide funding student travel, but it has $14,255 left in the budget this year.
Board members wanted to make sure they were fair to any groups that needed funding, including those which may ask for money later in the year. Wilson moved that the board ask Sewell to draft some guidelines for providing funding for student trips.
The board approved funding for the Lego Robotics Team for the competition, but declined the request from the SHS Singers.
Comptroller Rob Logan was expected to give the board an update on the corrective action plan to prevent delays in future financial year audits, however he was unable to attend the meeting. Sewell presented the plan in his place, which included adding a new employee to the finance staff this month who will handle fixed assets.
Wilson voiced concern over the plan, saying that the she expected it to be much more specific with a timeline and procedures, a sentiment with which other members agreed.
Sewell and the board members expressed their condolences to the family and friends of Breanna Hampton, the Starkville High School senior who passed away earlier this week.