Delesicia Martin, Ed.D.
Greetings and welcome to the Superintendent’s Corner! In this special "corner" of our district website, I like to post regular blogs about all the great things happening in our school district. Through these posts, I hope you will identify ways you can join us in celebrating the success of our students and understand how you can be more involved in helping our students excel. I also encourage you to communicate with us via Twitter
, the Schoolway mobile app
, and School messenger
I invite you to check this corner regularly to see good news headlines and photos of positive events that highlight our efforts to provide an engaging and empowering environment that ensures excellence for our students!
Friday, November 2: National Scholarship MonthFriday, October 26: Building Partnerships Over BreakfastFriday, October 19, 2018: Red Ribbon Week Friday, October 12, 2018: National Arts & Humanities Month Friday, October 5, 2018: National Bullying Prevention Month Friday, September 28: Getting Physically and Academically HealthyFriday, September 21: Planning for Life After High School Friday, September 14: Teachers, Technology, and Transformation Friday, September 10: Service. Remembrance. Excellence.Friday, August 31: Excellence in Action: HCSD Faculty and StaffFriday, August 24, 2018: Preparing for College and Career SuccessFriday, August 17, 2018: Welcome Back!
November 2: National Scholarship Month
Preparing students for college and careers means we also have to help them understand their options for paying to obtain the college degree, certificate, or credential they are seeking. The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) has designated November as National Scholarship Month, which is a time to raise awareness of scholarship opportunities for current and future college students. As the costs associated with obtaining a college degree continue to rise, it’s becoming more important for students and families to know the financial aid options that are available to them.
We are fortunate to have a strong partnership with Get2College, a program that offers free counseling services to help students and families prepare and pay for college. Get2College provides several resources to assist with the financial aid process, including a list of website to find local, state, and national scholarship.
Scholarship Search Sites:
According to information shared by NSPA, scholarships and grants cover an average of 15 percent of students' college expenses. When combined with other forms of financial aid, scholarships can help offset the cost of college and help students attend their school of choice. It’s important for students to begin identifying scholarships now, so they can complete all of the required documentation by the deadlines.
This focus on scholarships also provides an opportunity to emphasize the importance of strengthening writing skills and participating in extracurricular activities. Many scholarship applications include essays, and the experiences students have through extracurricular activities build leadership, teamwork, and resilience skills that may set an application apart.
We want every student to leave Hinds County School District college and career ready, which means they know what they need to do get to and through college. For more information on scholarships that might be available, visit your school counselor.
October 25: Building Partnerships Over Breakfast
On Thursday, October 25, we had the opportunity to address school administrators, ministers, local community leaders, and elected officials during a breakfast at Hinds Community College Eagle Ridge Conference Center. These meetings are important because they allow us to underscore the critical role each member of the community has on student success and share the progress we’ve been able to make through collaboration.
Our refrain during the meeting and throughout the year has been partnerships because we recognize that we would be unable to meet the diverse needs of our students without the support of the community. From the bond issue to backpacks for students, when we communicate a need, the community had been responsive, and we are so appreciative of the sustained support of our schools and our students.
As we continue on our journey to excellence, we will have to continue identifying ways for us to work together on behalf of students and families. We’ve made great progress over the past few years, but we can never rest on past accomplishments. We thank you for all that you have done, and we look forward to working with you in the future to ensure excellence throughout the district.
October 19: Red Ribbon Week
Next week is Red Ribbon Week, a national observance focused on mobilizing communities to educate youth and encourage participation in drug prevention activities. For more than 30 years, schools and communities have worked together to ensure students understand the devastating impact drugs can have on their lives.
This year’s theme—Life Is Your Journey, Travel Drug Free—is aligned well with our district’s Journey to Excellence. We try to help students understand that making healthy, positive choices is a critical part of being successful in the classroom and in life. In addition to helping students master core subjects, we also educate students on the risks of drug and alcohol use. Our relationships with community partners allows us to feature speakers and programs that offer valuable information and support for students as they navigate difficult choices and make decisions that will impact their lives for many years.
Parents play an extremely important role in helping students make healthy choices. One of the most important steps parents can take is talking to their child about drugs and alcohol. By starting a conversation about the dangers of drug and alcohol use, parents can open the door for their child to ask questions that eliminate the desire to experiment. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides several tips for parents on its HealthyChildren.org website, which include:
- Learn the facts about the harmful effects of drugs.
- As a part of your regular safety conversations, talk about avoiding tobacco, alcohol, and drug use.
- Be clear and consistent about family rules.
- Correct any wrong beliefs your child may have.
- Avoid TV programs, movies, and video games that glamorize tobacco, alcohol, and drugs.
- Find time to do things together.
- Encourage positive friendships and interests.
- Help your child learn different ways to say “No.”
We have to work together as a community to ensure every child is healthy and safe, and Red Ribbon Week is a great time to recommit to educating our students about the dangers associated with drug use.
October 12: National Arts & Humanities Month
More than 30 years ago, Americans for the Arts launched National Arts Week to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts. National Arts Week was reestablished as National Arts and Humanities Month in 1993 to be “a coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America.”
During the month of October, Americans for the Arts is encouraging communities and schools to focus on the arts by encouraging participation in artistic activities and raising awareness about the role arts and humanities play in our communities and lives.
Hinds County School District students experience arts and culture through an array of programs, including dance, theater, music, and visual arts. Our partnerships with New Stage Theater, Montage Theatre of Dance, Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and several other partners, we are able to offer immersive arts and cultural experience that broaden our student’s world views and help them explore ways to creatively express themselves.
We are privileged to have dedicated and talented art educators at our schools who meet regularly to identify new and exciting ways to engage students in the arts. Last year, the art teachers at Raymond and Terry High Schools led groups of students in a mural project that depicted their vision of learning in 2025—when the current class of kindergarten students would be graduating. Many of our elementary students have been able to perform alongside professional orchestral musicians through our strings program, which is a truly life-changing experience. We are also proud to host our annual Fine Arts Festival, which allows students of all ages to display their creativity and artistic talent.
We do all of this and more because we want our students to have rich and diverse learning experiences, but it’s also important because arts education impacts student achievement. A growing body of research indicates students involved in arts education learn how to communicate effectively, practice construction criticism, and listen better. Each of these skills is critical for college and career readiness and success, which is one of our primary goals.
I encourage you to attend some of the art showcases and musical performances that feature the amazing work of our students. They are truly adding lots of creativity to our journey to excellence.
October 5: National Bullying Prevention Month
Throughout the year, Hinds County School District’s administrators, faculty, and staff work to establish and promote school environments that are safe, welcoming, and inclusive. By offering a range of activities and programs helping students understand how to express themselves, resolve conflict, and seek support, we help students learn valuable lessons that assist them with making positive decisions about how to treat their peers.
Each October, we magnify these efforts to celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month, as communities across the country are taking action to prevent bullying in schools, communities, and online. Nationally, one out of every five students has reported being bullied, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Educational Statistics. We recognize one student is too many, which we work with students and parents to identify potential issues and needs early on. Our relationships with community partners allows us to connect our students with additional resources that help stem some of the issues that may lead to bullying.
Later this month, our high school students will have the opportunity to hear from youth motivational speaker and author O’nae Chatman in an assembly that focuses on helping them understand their role in preventing bullying inside the school. We have also been working closely with the Parent Engagement Network to ensure parents have information on ways to monitor and prevent cyberbullying.
Preventing bullying in our schools is one of our top priorities. Students who experience bullying are more likely to experience sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression, which will impact their ability to learn. Research suggests that bullying can also contribute to decreased academic achievement and school participation, making students who are bullied more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school. Since one of our goals is to ensure every student is college or career ready, we are focused on supporting our students’ emotional wellbeing, which means creating school climates that feel safe and supportive for every student.
In order to completely eliminate bullying, we need parents and community members to help promote a culture of inclusion in the communities we serve. Together, we can ensure none of our students ever has to experience the negative effects of bullying.
September 28: Getting Physically and Academically Healthy
A growing body of research is showing that increased physical activity and physical fitness, including school activities such as recess, physical education classes, and physical activity in the classroom, can facilitate and positively impact academic performance. Over the past few years, we have worked to identify several ways to introduce and incorporate physical activity for all students to ensure we are promoting and reinforcing healthy behaviors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes September as National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, which provides a chance for to learn more about this serious health condition and identify ways we can work as a community to solve it.
According to CDC, about one in five children in the United States is considered obese, and Mississippi has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the nation at 37 percent. The CDC notes that children with obesity are more likely to suffer from isolation, depression, and lower self-esteem, which we know impacts their ability to succeed in the classroom. In addition to making students feel good about themselves, physical activity is directly connected to student success in critical subject areas, such as math and reading. According to research conducted by the National Centers for Biotechnical Information, mathematics and reading are the academic topics that are most influenced by physical activity.
The factors that can contribute to childhood obesity can also influence student performance in the classroom. A lack of sleep and lack of access to healthy food directly impact students’ ability to focus in the classroom and master the skills required to be college and career ready. Throughout the district, we have operationalized the CDC’s recommendations by adopting policies and practices that support healthy eating and regular physical activity while providing opportunities for students to learn about and practice these behaviors through intramural sports and programs like Soccer Shots.
We are concerned about the overall success and well-being of all of our students, which is why we make we are constantly helping them improve their physical, emotional, and mental health.
September 21: Planning for Life After High School
The Hinds County School District Journey to Excellence does not end when our students graduate. Our goal is to ensure every student is ready for college and careers, which is why we place a special emphasis on planning and preparing for college--whether it's a community college, four-year institution, or credential program. We are fortunate to have partners like Get2College, a comprehensive program that helps our students and families plan, prepare, and pay for college. At our recent Teen Summit, Get2College shared valuable information with more than 200 of our students, and throughout the year, the organization conducts events that complement the work our faculty and staff does to prepare students for college throughout the year.
The College Savings Plan Network (CSPN) has designated September as College Savings Month, which offers an opportunity to for us to focus on emphasizing the importance of saving for college. Studies suggest that students who have a college savings plan are more likely to enroll in and graduate from college. We know that each student’s journey will be unique, but whatever path they choose, we want to make sure they are prepared for every step.
One of our strategies for ensuring every student is ready for college and careers is increasing our academic and extracurricular course offerings. This year, we launched career academies at both high schools, which will allow our students to explore a range of careers, earn college credits, and graduate with nationally recognized credentials. In addition to these rigorous and robust academic offerings, we are continuing to create more opportunities for our students to build their leadership, teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking skills. Last Friday marked the first meeting of the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council (SSAC), a group of emerging leaders from Terry High School and Raymond High School. Student involvement is a cornerstone of public education, and working together, students and schools can make a difference. The SSAC will meet regularly to discuss key issues and policies that directly impact students, including tools and resources we can provide to help students prepare for life after high school.
It is never too early to start planning, so I encourage parents to begin having conversations with their children about what they want to do after high school early. Our faculty, staff, and administrators are here to help you throughout this process, so if you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us because we are all walking together on this journey to excellence.
September 14: Teachers, Technology, and Transformation
“Technology can become the “wings” that will allow the educational world to fly farther and faster than ever before—if we will allow it.” - Jenny Arledge
Right now, there are more than 3,500 students across the district using iPads and Macbooks to enhance their learning and help them be prepared for success in college and careers. We have been able to introduce this new technology thanks to the support from the community for our most recent bond issue, which is spurring growth, learning, and development on every campus in the district. We are extremely excited about the possibilities our 1-to-1 Technology Initiative will create for our students, but we’re also very cognizant of the salient point made by Tanya Byron: “The technology itself is not transformative. It’s the school, the pedagogy, that is transformative.”
Our schools are embracing the technology as another tool to help us provide an excellent educational experience for our students. Like Bill Gates, we understand that “technology is just a tool.” We also agree with Gates when he notes that teachers are the most important factor in “getting kids working together and motivating them.” Our goal is to allow these devices to be layered on top of an already rigorous and robust curriculum that emphasizes STEM and the arts.
Studies have shown that providing devices to students yields several positive benefits, including increased student technology use; more student-centered and project-based instruction; greater student engagement; and better relationships between students and teachers. In order to ensure we realize these benefits, we have worked closely with parents to help them understand about responsible technology use and share ways for them to help their children use their devices to extend their learning outside of the classroom.
As George Couros said, “Technology will never replace great teachers, but technology in the hands of great teachers is transformational.” We expect our journey to excellence to be transformational for students, teachers, parents, and the community, which is why we are committed to providing exceptional professional development for our staff and working closely with community stakeholders to provide learning opportunities for our students inside and outside of the classroom.
September 7: Service. Remembrance. Excellence.
Nearly two decades ago, our world changed forever, and as we have lived through that change, we have learned a lot about ourselves and about the communities we live in. Resilience is one of the qualities we stress in Hinds County School District. In the days, months, and years that have passed since September 11, 2001, our country has had to be more resilient than ever. As we have recovered, we have found ways to remember those in our community who are less fortunate or need our support and encouragement.
Since 2002, the nation has recognized September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance that promotes community service as a tribute to all those who were impacted on that tragic day. Turning heartbreaking tragedy into altruistic energy is an important way to refocus and recommit to being our best selves and walking on our individual journey to excellence. Last week, we highlighted the volunteer activities of some of our student-athletes, and this week, I want to challenge our entire Hinds County School District family to finds serve and remember "through our personal acts and expressions of kindness, unity, and good deeds."
As educators, we are constantly reminded that many of our students need us to be much than instructors or counselors. They need sympathetic ears and open hearts. They need open minds and open doors. They need unyielding support and unwavering confidence in their ability to excel. Every day we set foot on campus, we are called to serve and remember. We serve every student regardless of how they come to us or what kind of challenges they have faced. We remember that every student deserves us to bring our best selves to our work. We smile when we recall the success stories, and we are saddened when we think about those moments when we haven't lived up to our commitment.
But we are resilient, too. Each year, we return to these hallways and classrooms because we love what we do, and we are determined to make a difference in the lives of our students. I encourage each and every one of you to think about how you can make a difference on September 11 and each day of your life.
August 31: Excellence in Action: Hinds County School District Faculty and Staff
Students, faculty, staff, and parents often hear us talk about Hinds County School District's journey to excellence. We also discuss this journey frequently with educators from other districts and in other states to let them know the phenomenal things we are doing in Hinds County. During these conversations, we emphasize the fact that this journey would be impossible without having faculty, staff, and students with excellent character and drive to succeed.
Earlier this month, we had several teachers and administrators to receive distinguished state and national honors. Erica Jones, instructional coach at Gary Road Elementary and HCSD teacher of the year, was recently named as a 2019 NEA Foundation Global Learning Fellow. As a Fellow, Ms. Jones will spend a year in a peer learning network, building global competency skills that she will be able to pour into her students at GRE. At the state level, Dr. Tracey Gregory, assistant principal at Terry High School, and Ms. Jana Carter, assistant principal at Raymond Elementary School, each received the Mississippi Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) Outstanding Administrator Award for 2017-2018. Mrs. Jordan German (Gilmer), one of our stellar teachers at Utica Elementary Middle School Teacher and the school's Rookie of the Year, was recognized as an MACTE Outstanding Professional Educator Award for 2017-2018.
The excellence that these outstanding educators exhibit on our campuses permeates throughout the communities we serve. As a district, we were recently honored by the Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation for supporting their efforts to enhance the quality of life for individuals living with sickle cell disease through the support of research, public activities and awareness, and patient/family education. We are extremely proud of the work our faculty and staff have done in this area, especially in the example it sets for our students.
There is no better example than the spreading of this spirit of service than the recent school supply drive conducted by the Terry High School baseball team. During the month of August, members of the team worked at Wal-Mart to secure donations for students at Gary Road Elementary. There are far too many examples of volunteerism and service from our students to name, but we are so proud of their willingness to support one another and their communities by giving back.
As we continue this journey to excellence together, let's remember to celebrate the small and large achievements and accomplishments of every member of the HCSD family throughout the year.
August 24, 2018: Preparing for College and Career Success
It’s never too early for our students and parents to start thinking about what happens after graduation. Whether this is the very first month of school for our early learners or the first month on the countdown to graduation day for our seniors, it’s important to begin discussing goals and outlining plans for college and careers.
There is a body of research underscoring the importance of introducing college and career conversations as early as elementary school to help with student engagement and other key issues. Hobsons has shared four significant benefits of encouraging early conversations about college and career readiness, including expanding students’ vision of the future, empowering teachers to connect lessons to the real world, helping students content the dots between school and careers early on, and inviting parents into conversations about student success and future plans.
In the Hinds County School District, we engage students in college and career exploration and planning at several stages in multiple ways to ensure they are prepared to succeed after graduation. Our early learners are introduced to computer science through the CS4MS (Computer Science for Mississippi) Initiative and immersed in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through Project Lead the Way. Our new career academies offer students will allow our high school students to gain exposure and real-world experience in an industry of their choosing. Our aim with these efforts is to help boost student success and broaden their students’ horizons.
Each year, schools host Reality Fairs that offer a “real world” experience for students and help them understand the connection between academic curriculum and career opportunities. In addition, our Office of Community Relations coordinates an annual Teen Summit provides an opportunity for high school students to understand the importance of graduation and refine critical “soft skills” that are important for career success.
We believe these coordinated efforts to focus on college and career readiness are paying off. Our district graduation rate is slightly higher than the overall graduation rate for the state and is on par with the national average. In addition, we have seen consistent improvement in the graduation rates for both Raymond High School and Terry High School over the past few years.
It’s also important to note that preparing students for college and careers has to be a communitywide effort. We need parents and community members to help us create a culture of success and ensure our students have the tools and resources they need to realize the dreams. For more information on how you can support the district’s efforts to prepare students for college and careers, contact John Neal, associate superintendent of community relations, at email@example.com or (601) 857.7008.
August 17, 2018: Welcome Back!
Dear Parents and Friends,
I hope your summer has been relaxing, refreshing, and rejuvenating. It is with a deep sense of eagerness, enthusiasm, and excitement that I welcome you back for another year of aspiration and achievement in Hinds County School District. We have been hard at work over the summer preparing for a new school year and we are excited to work with you throughout the year to help your child achieve their success inside and outside the classroom. Your investment in your child’s educational process has contributed to our collective success and magnified the momentum propelling us further on our journey to excellence.
I am pleased to announce that we will begin this year as a District of Innovation-one of only seven such districts in the state. This designation is attributed to both what we’ve done over the years and what we plan to accomplish in the near future. We have increased our efforts to integrate technology into learning and have built a solid foundation for our new career academies and the introduction of our 1-to-1 technology initiative. These new tools will enhance our ability to provide high quality instruction that allows your child to be competitive in colleges and careers across the country.
One of the most meaningful factors in assisting students to have a successful school experience is the concern and participation of their parents. In order to help your children attain their goals, we need your involvement, whether it be through attending parent-teacher conferences, volunteering in your child’s school, or attending school community events. Your engagement throughout the year strengthens the parent-student relationship and can increase academic performance.
Every day, we walk into classrooms full of ideas and imagination, and every day, it is our responsibility to harness the youthful, creative energy that fuels our district. Our goal is to create a learning environment that allows your child’s ideas to bloom and imagination to flourish. Our faculty, staff, and administrators work hard every day to harness the youthful, creative energy your child brings to school each day. As Winston Churchill noted, “Continuous effort—not strength or intelligence—is the key to unlocking our potential.” We promise to display our unwavering effort to your child’s success, and we invite you to join us as we support every child in Hinds County School District on their journey to excellence.
I look forward to another wonderful year full of inspiring stories and immense success.
Yours in Education,
Dr. Delesicia Martin