Message to Columbus Principals, Teachers and Management Team

June 12, 2012

Announcements, CMSD, Education, News

Editor’s Note: The following is a memo issued by CMSD Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell:

2012-2013 School Calendar/Proposed Reinstating Early Release Wednesdays

As you know, there was a lengthy discussion tonight regarding my proposal to re-establish Early Release Wednesdays for focused professional development in Columbus Schools. My decision in making this recommendation was based solely on our school district’s need to raise student achievement and prepare effectively for the new common core assessment coming in 2014.

Our School District Achievement Is Near the Bottom & Common Core State Tests Much Harder

I respect the parent that spoke tonight and all the community members who came out to the meeting to hear items on the agenda tonight. After we returned from Executive Session, I provided additional input to the Board as to why I believe our school district is on “Academic Watch” and why I believe leaders have a responsibility to do something about it – even if it means doing some things differently. I explained how reinstating ERW will give us the dedicated professional development time principals and teachers need for systemic professional development.

The Board of Trustees voted (yea – 3, nay – 1, and abstain – 1), after we returned from Executive Session, to re-instate Early Release Wednesdays under “Such Other Matters That May Come Before the Board.” It was not my intention to hide anything from our parents and community. I was prepared to discuss the matter in more detail, after Executive Session, for the same number of persons present before E/S that had they been present earlier. The future achievement of our school district is at stake. As much as I would have liked to have taken the easy way out, tonight, my commitment to students required me to advocate for them even harder. They deserve our best.

Early Release Wednesday (ERW) Needed to Get Off the Bottom

The question was asked why parents weren’t allowed to have input on the process, to which I replied that my experience as an Asst. Superintendent with the Success Calendar process, a few years ago, confirmed that, regardless of the input mechanisms districts make available for the community, it doesn’t always work in the best interest of students. Success Calendar received significant backlash that ultimately led to only two schools having an extended summer calendar. Even with the best of intentions regarding the success calendar, many students were not afforded the opportunity to extend their learning, using this process. My question became ‘what about the rest of the schools?’ I proposed ERW because it will allow the district to address the achievement needs at all schools, and for all students.

Dedicated Time for Quality Professional Development for All CMSD Schools   

The research tells us if we want to raise student achievement, we have to help teachers, through professional development. I have only one agenda and that is to get our school district achievement off of the bottom, using research-based practices that help teachers teach in a more rigorous manner, through quality professional development. In the end, we have to find time to prepare teachers to better educate all of the students. I’m standing up for the achievement of our school district – for you; for our children; for our teachers; and for our parents who want their children to have the skills needed to go to college in the future.

Parents Will Learn, Early This Summer, About ERW

Our parents are critical to the success of their children’s future by helping the school district do what’s right for them. Each and every parent will be notified by letter, before the end of this week, about the re-instated Early Release Wednesdays in our school district. The letter will be prepared and mailed to all parents from the district office.

Re-Registration Day will be held at all schools, in July, during which parents and principals will communicate on the transportation plan needed for every student on ERW. Many of our parents know that CMSD pioneered ERW in our area and the Lowndes County School District adopted the strategy, a few years later, and are now a High Performing school district. The school calendar for the city and county school systems are now very similar, with both implementing Early Release Wednesdays this coming school term.

In addition, we are really looking forward to offering a Summer Leadership Institute in July for teachers, principals, parents, and Board members to develop Columbus Schools’ continuous improvement plan and professional development calendar, together. Our school district will not improve without a plan.

School District Officials & Principals Will Adjust Transportation Routes to Help Parents on ERW

The district, through building leadership, will help parents secure safe after-school care by ensuring students can be dropped off at an alternate location (for example, grandparents’ home) in the district attendance zone, on Wednesdays, as parents inform principals of this need. Schools will also provide parents with local daycare and after-school services that offer school pick-up services for students. District buses will also drop students off at the Boys and Girls Club or other after-school locations on Wednesdays, as requested and needed by parents. The needs of our special education students will be addressed, on a case-by-case basis, with the assurance that each child’s IEP needs are honored and special busing will be provided, based on IEPs.

School Day Extended by 35 – 45 Minutes (Buses Leave @ 3:00 p.m./Elem & 3:38 p.m./CMS & CHS

The school day for Early Release Wednesday, for elementary students, will end at 12:45 p.m.; and 12:15 for middle and high school students. Elementary students will be dismissed from school at 3:00 p.m., and middle and high school students will be dismissed at 3:38 p.m. (on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday). As you can see, the school day for next year will not be exceedingly long and is in line with what most schools in the state do, now (dismiss between 2:45 – 3:45 p.m.), so students can get home before dark.

CMSD Continuous Improvement Plan – Available to the Public  

We are keeping you informed, as we work to grow student achievement in Columbus. If you haven’t had the opportunity, yet this summer, I invite you all to visit and click on Believe and Achieve Strategic Plan, which addresses the work that is for the sake of our district’s future. It will take teamwork and commitment to get our beloved school district off the bottom rung of the Mississippi achievement ladder. Thanks for all you do!

Dr. Martha Liddell, Superintendent

Special to The Real Story

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One Comment on “Message to Columbus Principals, Teachers and Management Team”

  1. cin Says:

    It appears Liddell spoke about ERW in executive session which I believe is not legal.
    As far as Success Calendar- If all the schools had adopted that we would have really been in even more financial trouble so thankfully that money wasn’t spent.


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