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Our JPS Community Meeting Questions & Answers

May 10, 2019

Building Stronger Schools Together - Jackson Public Schools

Questions & Answers

JPS Superintendent Dr. Errick L. Greene led a discussion about the shared priorities and developing plans for the Jackson Public School District at an Our JPS sponsored community meeting held at New Horizon Church on April 23. Below are the answers to questions submitted by attendees of that meeting.

Q1. Who can we contact now for any questions or concerns for transition out of high school?

The contact person will be contingent upon the nature of the transition.

  • Students who are transitioning out of high school due to graduation should contact the principal or counselor of that high school relative for needed documents, transcripts, recommendations, etc.
  • Students who are in need of transition services (e.g. exceptional education students) should contact the Office of Exceptional Education or the principal at their high school.
  • Students who are transitioning out of high school to attend another school or program should report to the high school and follow the District’s withdrawal procedures. If the student is attempting to withdraw as a dropout, they should meet with the principal to discuss and review other options that may be available.

Q2. When we meet with the superintendent, JPS staff and principals, who does the follow-up?

It is the District’s goal to always work towards a clear resolution at the conclusion of all meetings. If a resolution is not made, and follow-up is needed and communicated, District personnel is expected to follow up and respond with any additional information or findings. If a response is not provided, or suitable, please feel free to speak with the staff’s supervisor.

Q3. I believe elementary and middle schools should have English, math, and science every day.

Q3.1 Where does the concept of the “block system” come from?

Middle and high schools across the country began implementing block schedules in the early 1990s. JPS implements a form of block schedule called an A/B Block Schedule. This schedule allows students to spend an extended period of time (100 minutes) every other day, versus 50 minutes, every day, like on a traditional schedule.

Q3.2 Where or in what district is it successful?

Many districts across the country and state of Mississippi implement block schedules. Currently, most of the metro area school districts implement a block schedule. Hinds County School District uses a modified block schedule and Madison and Clinton are both on A/B Block schedules. Hinds County School District is C-rated, and Madison and Clinton are A-rated districts.

Q3.3 Is it modeled after a successful district?

Yes.

Q3.4 Are they malleable and fluid?

The District is and has always been open to reviewing and determining schedules that meet the needs of our scholars.

Q4. Are schools and the school's leaders interested in having a collaborative relationship with their communities and the community's leadership?

The District, schools, and school leadership are very interested in and committed to creating productive and stable collaborative partnerships within their communities and the community's leaders. Please feel free to contact the school leaders directly, the Director of Partners in Education at (601) 960-8905, or any central office administrative staff at (601) 960-8700 for assistance.

Q5. What is the process for making sure new, young teachers are paired with seasoned teachers for support and direction?

New teachers are assigned a mentor from the district level to assist them with best practices and curriculum.

Q6. Why, with such a need for teachers, were two women that I know of sent notices that they would not be rehired without any explanation?

All employees who have licenses expiring at the end of the school year will receive a letter of non-renewal. The cause for issuing the letter is included in the letter. Once the license is renewed or obtained, individuals recommended by the principal receive contracts for employment for the following school year.

Q7. How are you and your team addressing the lack of certified teachers in the classrooms?

Individuals who are interested in becoming certified educators are being educated on Mississippi licensure requirements and assisted with the certification process in various ways. There are many techniques the District is using to recruit certified staff, including, but not limited to:

  1. Training and counseling for teacher certification exam preparation and resources for alternative teacher preparation programs.
  2. Working with the MDE to pilot alternative certification programs in order to help individuals from the Jackson community to become certified teachers.
  3. JPS is also attending educator recruitment fairs and college and community career fairs to recruit certified and non-certified personnel to our school district and the field of education in general.
  4. Plans are being made to introduce campus/district tours and virtual training on educator certification.
  5. Developing a stronger internet presence through social media, internet job boards, and our own website.
  6. Developing partnerships with local colleges/universities to assist with educator certification and development.
  7. Utilizing partnerships with organizations across the country that provides opportunities for high-quality educators to serve in critical shortage areas.

Q8. What recruitment processes are you using?

The teacher shortage is a combination of different variables related to interest in the field of education as a career and difficulty meeting certification requirements nationwide. All the recruitment efforts listed above are not just to fill positions in JPS, but to recruit individuals to the teaching profession as a whole.

Q9. Have you considered identifying future educators at the freshman or other levels, mentoring and investing financially in them as JPS instructors/educators, who will commit/obligate themselves for X number of years to JPS?

We absolutely have. JPS has looked at developing a "Grow Your Own" program that would function at every level, such as:

  • Focusing on recruiting certified personnel from teacher preparation programs within Jackson, the state of Mississippi, across the United States, and beyond.
  • Certifying and developing educators from the community through non-traditional educator program partnerships and in-district methods.
  • Motivating and promoting the career of education within our own middle and high schools that would incentivize our own students to become certified teachers to teach within the District for a commitment of five years in exchange for paid undergraduate tuition.

These programs are still in the process of being brought to fruition, and funding is still being identified. This is an important mission for the District to ensure we have certified, highly-qualified educators in every classroom.

Q10. Is the administrative staff too top heavy? If so, what are your plans to rectify that? How are these new positions going to affect teacher pay?

New positions in the restructure will not impact teacher pay. In fact, due to strategic mergers of departments and the elimination of several administrative roles, the District reorganization of central office roles will save nearly $1 million.

Q11. Equity – Access to technology seems to be a challenge in some schools. When do you anticipate the playing field to be level?

Our Instructional Technology team is working to ensure that all schools have equitable access to technology. Principals recently completed a school technology plan which outlines the existing technology their schools have (e.g. desktop computers, smart boards, laptops, and LCD projectors) and their prioritized needs for the next two years.

Q12. How will the reorganization affect exceptional education students and the current services they receive at JPS schools?

The Exceptional Education Department and its staff have not been impacted by the District’s reorganization.

Q13.1. What is the process for working with failing schools and classrooms?

Schools currently rated F receive additional support from the District's Office of State and Federal Programs. They are also eligible for grant funding that can be used to implement their instructional program or provide teacher coaching and professional development.

Q13.2. What is the plan for using assessment to positively impact instruction and growth?

Our testing practices are currently under review and we are looking for ways to streamline our process. These changes will provide us the data needed to better understand what students have mastered and to modify instruction where appropriate.

Q13.3. How will it align to curriculum and standards?

Each of our current assessments is aligned to state standards and gives us a reliable indication of how students are likely to perform on the Mississippi Academic Assessment Program (MAAP) tests.

Q13.4. How will we ensure it doesn’t take too much time?

Testing time is an important issue. We need to build students' reading and testing stamina while being sensitive to the fact that testing too long reduces the reliability of the results.

Q13.5. Our children need test-taking skills. When will the hamster’s wheel stop teaching children to the test instead of equipping them to be able to test? Can so much (often) testing be reduced or at least combined?

Yes. Our testing practices are currently under review, and we are looking for ways to streamline our process. These changes will provide us the data needed to better understand what students have mastered and to modify instruction where appropriate.

Q13.6. Can we return to paper and pencil tests?

Yes.

Q13.7. How much do we pay to take computer-based tests per student?

$9.50 for middle school students, $6 for high school students, and $5.40 for elementary students.

Q14. Other districts have driver’s education taught in the high schools. When can JPS offer an equitable experience like this in our District with a certified teacher?

There is no plan to expand driver education in the District at this time.

Q15. There is a history of moving principals when they are performing well. Can we somehow compensate or give them a mentee to allow them to have a dual role and grow?

Our District is currently engaged in a strategic planning process which emphasizes the importance of building our teacher and principal leader pipelines. Our most successful principals will be an important asset in this process of supporting the growth of their colleagues. We will also continue to support the advancement of talented and proven instructional leaders into district-level roles where they can expand their impact by helping to grow others.

Q16. How will you address classroom size as you continuously close and consolidate schools?

Our current average student-teacher ratio for elementary schools is just 17-1. The state mandates that class size does not exceed 27-1. We are actively reviewing enrollment trends to ensure that class size is manageable for our teachers at every grade level.

Q17. Exceptional Education has multiple components, particularly cognitive and behavioral. The programs in place to address behavioral components seem to have plateaued with limited global/districtwide improvement. What is the plan to ensure we are making improvements regarding disruptive behaviors?

Behavior specialists assess the school culture and climate and its surrounding community resources to make sound decisions about social and emotional learning in schools districtwide when providing services. They also provide research-based practices in their scope of services and recommendations to schools to address and intervene in disruptive behaviors. Supports for personnel in the form of professional development is highly recommended to combat schoolwide behaviors that are problematic.

Behavior specialists are monitoring aberrant behavior with students. When identified, the staff uses cognitive behavioral curricula to address antisocial behavior. Through this process, students are taught replacement behavior and, when appropriate, complete restorative activities specific to aberrant behavior. This process is documented using a Behavior Intervention Plan. Behavior specialists meet with the Individualized Education Program team to analyze the integrity and fidelity of the plan through a systematic process. The progress of the intervention is reported at the natural progression.

Q.18 What services outside of the Extended School Year, during summer months can my child engage in? 

Most services and certain summer camps stop for high schools and are almost non-existent for high school exceptional education students. However, a few summer programs are listed below.

Autism Resource Center Summer Reading Programs 
Eudora Welty Library
(601) 968-5811
Pre-registration required.

Exceptional Education Summer Reading Programs
Eudora Welty Library
(601) 968-5811

2019 Summer Experience
Jackson Medical Mall
(601) 982-8467
Pre-Registration required.

Summer of Community (K-6th grade)
Operation Shoestring
(601) 353-6336

Q19. Will the District help transport students to after-school programs such as the Boys & Girls Club?

The Transportation Department has worked with the Boys & Girls Club for years. However, the numbers of students attending the Boys & Girls Club are now increasing. This has caused some of our buses to be overloaded.

Q20. How will you consider equity in making sure that transportation is available as much for academic teams as it is for athletic teams?

The Transportation Department does not hold any special event (academics or athletics) in higher regard than others. We try to accommodate all requests.

Q21. What are you doing to make sure transportation requests for extracurricular activities are handled expertly and in a timely manner?

Transportation has a system in place that requires schools to make requests at least two weeks ahead of time. This gives the department time to plan to make sure that requests are honored. However, we know there are times that academic and athletic teams may not know that far in advance. The Transportation Department does all it can to ensure requests are honored in a timely manner.

Q22. When will work start on the $65 million bond?

May 2019.

Q23. If schools are closing, when will we know, and what happens to bond dollars for those schools?

No schools are scheduled to close this year.

Q24. What will you do with vacant schools that you close?

The District is currently reviewing proposals and options that have been presented for the schools that are closed. The administration will then determine what will be the best use for each.

Q25. Are any thoughts being given to ways to eliminate so much paperwork for teachers so they will have time and energy to work with our students?

Yes, we have heard feedback about excessive paperwork burdens from a number of our teachers. We are engaging with our assessment and data vendors to help us generate more automated forms and reports so that teachers are not having to cut and paste information that exists in other formats. These changes will allow teachers to place more of their time on the important work of supporting our scholars.

Q26. Why is it that public comments are not promoted at and before School Board meetings?

Public comments are promoted on and before Board meetings. They are always included on Board Meeting agendas that we post online and on the front door of the building where School Board meetings are held. Agendas are posted the week of the meeting. Also, the Board Meeting Schedule can be found on our website. From our Homepage, touch About and then School Board.

Q27. As a grandparent of 13 grandchildren, why can't we have ceremony days etched in stone? I have a two-week notice for my job. Why can't moms and dads be given the same option for giving notices to take off?

Schools determine the dates of all school level events.

Q28. How can neighborhood associations be of benefit to the neighborhood schools from your perspective?

JPS’ Office of Partners in Education works to connect community resources with school needs through our Adopt-A-School initiative. The goal is to cultivate data-driven support to our scholars and educators to enhance their educational experiences and support their social-emotional needs. Each JPS site has completed a Partnership Plan that outlines their most pressing needs in three areas: Academic Improvement/Support, Teacher and Scholar Incentives/Recognition and Facility Support. We are currently working with several neighborhood associations/school partnerships, and welcome additional groups. Please contact Partners in Education at (601) 960-8905 for additional information.

Q29. With the difficulty retaining teachers, and only 50% of teachers certified, how can/will you implement a comprehensive, productive program to address students' individual needs (e.g. struggling students and Response to Intervention)?

The District plans to implement a more comprehensive, productive program that will address the needs of all students through the adoption and implementation of a new curriculum. The new language arts and mathematics curriculum will assist classroom teachers with the instructional deficits that new teachers face relative to content knowledge and pedagogy (the interaction between teacher and students during the lesson; the act, teaching process). Tier I instruction will provide explicit instruction in the various skills and concepts. The proposed lesson structure is consistent and contains implementation tips and scaffolds. Scaffolds provide support and a variety of instructional techniques to help students bridge gaps and have a deeper understanding. The curriculum also provides differentiation and extension opportunities. What we mean by differentiation is the use of various instructional strategies to help all students master the same skill or concept. Effective implementation of Tier I instruction will provide supplemental instruction for both struggling and advanced learners. Intervention sessions will be scheduled and, therefore, become a part of the daily instructional routine.