/National group criticizes JPS management structure

National group criticizes JPS management structure

Mississippi News Nonprofit Nearly six months since it avoided state takeover, the Jackson Public Schools District is facing harsh criticism from a national consortium of education. The report, released by the Washington, D.C.-based Council of the Great City Schools which represents 70 large school districts across the country, states that “The district is clearly at crossroads” and must now choose a more productive way forward to achieve positive results for Jackson’s public schools children. The report, which is 134 pages long, outlines the problems and highlights its strengths. It also criticizes the new management structure that the district adopted last school year. The structure includes four assistant superintendents who oversee four regions that are based on existing school feeder patterns. Freddrick Murray is the interim school superintendent. Each assistant superintendent reports directly to Freddrick Murray. The report states that the December visit by the Council team to the district revealed that it had never seen a school district work within its own regions and not in accordance with its functions. The report states that the current structure of the district makes it difficult for the district to achieve its system-wide goals. According to the report, Jackson’s organization structure is driven more by individuals and relationships than the district’s vision, direction and priorities. Sherwin Johnson, a district spokesperson, stated that the board had discussed possible changes to the structure, but that no official recommendations have been made. Johnson pointed out that the former school board approached the council to perform a study “designed for support and revealing with recommendations towards the development of plans, strategies, and classroom instruction.” The current school board members were confirmed in November. In December, the council members visited Jackson to visit the district and meet with parents, teachers, and other district staff. The district avoided a state takeover last fall and instead formed a partnership with the governor’s office and W.K. Kellogg foundation. These groups will work together to address many of the issues identified in an investigation by the Mississippi Department of Education that found the district was in violation of 75 per cent of state accreditation policies. The most significant issue in the Council’s report is the district’s governance structure. The previous school board approved in May 2016 a new organizational structure, which split the district into four regions. Although school officials claimed the move would improve efficiency, the report says that the council has never seen Jackson’s urban school districts so poorly organized. The new school board is a benefit to the schools. The members are given a variety of important responsibilities. They will be responsible for leading the search for a permanent Superintendent and working with the Better Together Commission. Jeanne Hairston, the board president, said that the report will allow the Better Together Commission and the board to continue building a successful school district. Hairston stated that the report was initiated and approved by the previous school board. However, Hairston said that it confirms the “efforts underway in transform the District” and will select a permanent superintendent. According to the report, the district has “unusually high levels of teacher and staff turnover.” The district leaders repeatedly admitted that Jackson is facing a teacher shortage, just like other districts in the country and across the state. According to the report, the teacher retention rate for 2016-17 was 83% according to district data. Johnson stated that the district offered $2,500 in signing bonuses for newly hired teachers and reestablished Curriculum and Professional Development departments to provide ongoing support for teachers and staff during the school year. The Council of the Great City Schools, which is based in Washington, D.C., covers 70 large urban school districts across the country, including Jackson Public Schools. According to its website, the council represents these districts’ needs through legislative efforts and research as well as media relations. It also offers a platform for members to share information and compare their problems. Click here to view the complete report and all its recommendations. This report was prepared at no cost to the taxpayers or district.