Tomorrow we will be hosting our fifth annual Cool2Care Health Fair in conjunction with Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation, and UnitedHealthcare. This event is part of a coordinated effort to promote healthy living for students and parents throughout the school year, and our health-related partners provide a range of valuable services and information that help our students, faculty, staff, and staff make healthy choices and access the care they need.
Healthy students have a better chance of succeeding inside and outside of the classroom. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the academic success of America’s youth is strongly linked with their health, and is one way to predict adult health outcomes. The CDC further notes that research has linked school health programs with the reduction of the prevalence of health risk behaviors among young people and have a positive effect on academic performance.
We want our students to be able to pursue excellence while they are in our classrooms and well after they leave, so building healthy habits is an important part of what we aim to teach along with core academic curriculum. The health fair will feature health screenings and physical activity for people of all ages, including the Mississippi Sickle Cell Foundation 3K Red Cell Run-Walk event.
We hope to see you at the Terry High School Athletic Complex tomorrow, but if you’re not able to make it, we look forward to making our communities healthier places for everyone with your help.
Friday, March 29, 2019
We recently hosted our annual awards and appreciation breakfast and luncheon for faculty and staff who have reached their fifth, tenth, fifteenth, twentieth, or twenty-fifth year of dedicated service to the district. The success of our district relies heavily upon the caliber of our educators and support staff, which is why we emphasize the retention and development of highly competent, caring, and student-focused staff.
These milestone moments are significant for us whether staff members are celebrating five or twenty-five years of service. We appreciate the investment each employee makes in our students and our district, and this event is a way for us to display our gratitude and recognize those employees who are committing to the long-term success of the district.
I’ve included a few photos from the event below, and if you see any of these devoted individuals, please thank them for their service to our students and our community!
Friday, March 22, 2019
Earlier this school year, I wrote about the importance of arts during National Arts and Humanities Month, and this week is an ideal time to reemphasize the critical role arts education plays in preparing our students for success. Through an array of arts and culture programs, including dance, theater, music, and visual arts, our students are able to experience and explore opportunities that help them understand themselves and the world around them.
A recent article from the Brookings Institute notes that “the arts challenge us with different points of view, compel is to emphasize with ‘others,’ and give us the opportunity to reflect on the human condition. Every year, during our district Fine Arts Festival, our students showcase their talents and share their creativity with their peers, parents, and community members. We have a short video about our 2019 Fine Arts Festival and some great photos of our students in action that we’re excited to share. For more information about arts programs throughout the district, you can contact John Neal, associate superintendent of community relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, March 8, 2019
Earlier this month, Gary Road Intermediate (GRI) was recognized as a Project Lead The Way (PTLW) Distinguished School for the 2018-2019 academic year, making it one of only 241 elementary schools in the country—and only one of two schools in the state—to receive this distinction. GRI received this award for its commitment to increasing student access, engagement, and achievement in its PLTW programs—a commitment that mirrors our district’s dedication to immersing students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
GRI principal Ashley Green was featured on Mississippi Public Broadcasting’s Mississippi Edition earlier today, emphasizing the importance of students learning about STEM at an early age. In addition to the PLTW Project LaunchTM Program, our students have access to technology every day through our 1-to-1 Technology Initiative, which helps them understand how to use devices to enhance their learning. We also ensure our teachers are trained on how to use technology like smartboards and online learning management systems to complement the traditional, tried and true instructional tactics that we focus on in our regular professional development. GRI’s recognition is proof these efforts are paying off for our students.
This recognition, along with our continued investment in technology and upgrades to our physical spaces, is why we feel strongly parents should consider our schools when they are looking for an ideal learning environment for their children. We recently started enrollment for the 2019-2020 academic year, and this PLTW recognition is yet another reason we are confident we are preparing students for success in college and careers.
For more information on GRI, you can call (601) 372-8150. For more information on enrollment, you can contact the central office at (601) 877-5222.
Friday, March 1, 2019
Reading has always been important for learners of all ages, but now more than ever it is imperative for us to help our children build a love and appreciation for reading. Yes, every student now has to pass a reading assessment in third grade, but that’s not why I am stressing reading. And yes, Read Across America Day is tomorrow, which makes it an appropriate time to champion reading everywhere from classrooms to coffee shops.
More importantly, reading helps our children—and each of us—become better problem solvers and communicators, which are the skills we have to develop to improve our communities and move our state forward. The ways we currently receive and consume information have pushed reading to the margins. We can know what’s happening in far-flung places around the globe almost instantly, which can make the printed word (i.e. books) seem slow and outdated. However, reading can provide something we desperately need in this era—context.
When someone is learning to read, she may rely on context clues to understand a new word or ascertain the motivation of a character in a particular situation. Collecting those clues requires a certain degree of patience—a patience that can replace a rush to judgment that oftentimes closes off the possibility of alternate explanations and angles. The process of reading a book suggests to us that there is more to the story, an unfolding that will occur in the pages (or screen scrolling) ahead. Knowing there is more to the story means we always have more to learn and to explore. It also means that what we know now might change—a testament to our need to commit to lifelong learning.
In celebration of Read Across America Day, I encourage you to revisit your favorite book or pick up a new one. I hope that simple act—picking up a book—kindles (or rekindles) a love of reading that will take you on many exciting new adventures for years to come.
Friday, February 22, 2019
I talk and write a lot about our district’s journey to excellence. It’s important to emphasize that every member of the Hinds County School District family—students, teachers, parents, volunteers—is traveling on a journey to excellence together. We travel together so that we can provide support and encouragement for one another along the way. Like any journey, each traveler began at some unique point of origin that can be defined by a seemingly simple moment—enrolling in school.
Some parents enroll their children in the school they attended years ago, returning to halls painted with memories of friendships and exploration. Others are new members of our community looking for an excellent education for their child who are confident our district can offer a stellar learning environment. And still others appreciate the breadth of experiences their child will have in the district, recognizing that our investments in arts and athletics programs will help their child build relationships and resilience they will rely on later in life.
Although parents can enroll their child at any of our schools at any time during the year (and we will joyfully accept them with open arms), this is the time of the year we put a focused effort into enrollment. There are practical reasons for us to do this. Understanding how many students will be in our classrooms in the fall helps us plan and prepare. But we also like to start the enrollment process early so we can really get to know the families who will be traveling on this journey to excellence with us. Some students will start in our K-4 programs, beginning their first formal learning experience, with parents who will be full of questions that we are more than happy to answer. Other students may start fresh in a new high school, immersing themselves in lessons about mathematics or business in one of our new career academies. No matter where our students start, they will be supported, nurtured, and encouraged every step of the way on their individual journey to excellence.
I could enumerate the many reasons I believe parents should enroll their students in one of our schools, but I encourage everyone to take a look for themselves. Visit one of our campuses. Talk to our faculty and staff. Ask our parents about their experience. Where a parent decides to enroll their child in school is an extremely important decision, but I sincerely believe that Hinds County School District is the right choice.
If you are interested in enrolling your child in one of our schools, visit our website for more information or call (601) 857-5222 for more information.
Friday, February 15, 2019
“There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made.”
– Michelle Obama
Next month is Women’s History Month, and since I’ll have one less post due to spring break (hooray!), I wanted to post about Women’s History Month a few weeks early. There have been so many women who have played an instrumental role in shaping who I am today, including my mother who many of you have seen with me at events around the district. The support and inspiration I have received from women throughout my childhood and professional career have helped open my eyes to what is possible and pave the way for me to make a difference in the lives of children.
Michelle Obama, a history maker in her own right, sums up the legacy of the women throughout history in her quote. Because so many women were willing to sacrifice for worthy causes, history has been made. And because many more women will find a worthy cause and make a sacrifice, history will continue to be made in the years to come.
More than 150 years ago, Sojourner Truth delivered her spontaneous and sensational “Ain’t I A Woman” speech at a woman’s rights convention in Ohio. Ninety-nine years ago, the 19th amendment was ratified, declaring that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex,” effectively enfranchising women across the country. In 1972, Title IX was passed, which ensured girls and women had access to the same opportunities in education institutions. In 1981, Sandra Day O’Connor was appointed as the first woman on the Supreme Court. I could mention more historical milestones, but instead, I want to encourage our students, faculty, and staff to find a worthy cause and begin to make history.
I believe the future of our children is one of the worthiest causes in the world, which is why I have dedicated my life to ensuring every child receives an excellent education that prepares them for success. And my hope is that each of the students I come into contact with, directly or indirectly, will make history in their own special way.
Friday, February 8, 2019
Understanding how to develop and maintain healthy relationships is an extremely important skill for students at every stage of growth and development. However, in middle and high school, students begin to navigate a network of more complex relationships with parents, peers, and others that can affect their academic success and emotional health. During Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, a national effort to raise awareness about this important issue, teens, parents, and others are being encouraged to “Huddle Up for Healthy Relationships” and explore ways to start conversations about healthy relationships in friend circles, schools, and communities.
Unfortunately, teen dating violence is a common occurrence among teens. According to research, about one in three teens in the United States will experience some form of physical or emotional abuse by someone they are in a relationship with before they become adults. Since relationships are forged and fostered at school, among many other places, we believe it is part of our responsibility to teach our students about ways to build healthy relationships with their peers. Our primary goal is to create safe and welcoming learning environments for every student—learning environments free from any bullying or harassing behavior. However, when a student does experience bullying or harassment, we are committed to providing the support from counselors, staff, and community partners.
Loveisrespect.org has created a toolkit with valuable information, resources, and tips that students, parents, and individuals working with youth can use to identify and interrupt dating violence. In the toolkit, Loveisrespect.org notes that a healthy relationship requires honest communication, trust, safety, and respect and emphasizes that these things apply to all relationships. The toolkit also includes a parent tip sheet that includes suggestions, such as:
- Listen and give support,
- Talk about behaviors and not the person,
- Accept what your child is telling you, and
- Decide on next steps together.
Students, partners, and community members can download the Loveisrespect.org toolkit here. If you are a student or parents who is concerned about potentially harmful behavior in any form, I encourage you to contact the school administrators or the Central Office.
Friday, February 1, 2019
The rich history of our state and our country is brought to life through the countless stories of individuals and communities who have made courageous contributions benefitting us all. During Black History Month, we are able to reflect as a nation on the significant role African-Americans have played in making our society what is today. In Hinds County School District, we are proud to celebrate both past and present history makers, many of which have attended or graduated from one of our great schools.
Alumni of Carver Middle School (formerly the all-black Carver Junior High School) in Raymond have made tremendous strides in their field and continue to give back to the school through annual school supply donations. Congressman Bennie G. Thompson attended school in Bolton and has been a staunch supporter of public education and civil rights throughout his career. Some of our more recent alumni are also making an impact on our communities and others across the state. State Representative Jarvis Dortch, a graduate of Terry High School, has been serving District 66 since 2015 where he has fought for education funding and health care access. Sheena Allen, also a graduate of Terry High, has been featured in Fast Company, CNNMoney, Black Enterprise, Essence.com and several other publications for her work in the tech industry.
All of these former HCSD students and every other student who has walked our hallways have benefitted from the tireless work and effort of leaders who championed education and human rights in Mississippi and around the country. Robert Parrish Moses began working on voter education and registration during the Civil Rights Movement, serving as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Mr. Moses continued his work in education and civil rights when he founded the Algebra Project, an organization that has used mathematics as an organizing tool to guarantee quality public school education for all children in America for nearly three decades.
Mary McLeod Bethune, a woman born to former slaves in South Carolina, became one of the most important figures in education in America, founding the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls that would eventually become Bethune-Cookman College, a historically black college. Ms. Bethune also served as an advisor to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Over the course of this month and throughout the year, we will be recognizing and celebrating the accomplishments of the many people who have helped make Hinds County School District what it is today. If you have suggestions or recommendations on local history makers we can highlight, feel free to share them with is via social media or with John Neal, associate superintendent of community relations at email@example.com.
Friday, January 25, 2019
Mentors make a big difference in the lives of students, and the data bears that out. According to The National Mentoring Partnership, young adults who are at-risk but have a mentor are 55 percent more likely to enroll in college and 130 percent more likely to hold leadership positions. There are also significant benefits to students’ academic performance. Students who meet regularly with mentors are less likely to skip classes or school and tend to have a better overall attitude about their education.
We are concerned with developing the whole child, and mentors are an important part of the system that helps to mold our students into productive, well-rounded citizens. We are extremely grateful for and appreciative of the college students and adults who take time out of their schedules to mentor and tutor our students on and off campus. We also recognize that students are taking on roles as mentors every day, sharing what they’ve learned during their academic careers with their peers and younger students.
Unfortunately, one in three young people will grow up without a mentor, which means a third of students may not be able to learn from the experience from someone who cares about their success. Mentoring doesn’t have to be a complicated process. You can get started through a formal mentoring program or informally by supporting someone in your neighborhood or faith community. Mentors are the role models, advocates, and friends many of our students need to get through difficult periods in their lives and reach their goals.
If you are interested in becoming a mentor in the Hinds County School District, you can reach out directly to one of our schools or contact John Neal, associate superintendent of community relations at (601) 857-7008 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, January 18, 2019
Stephanie Hirsh, executive director of Learning Forward, an international association of learning educators, describes professional development is the strategy schools and school districts use to ensure that educators continue to strengthen their practice throughout their career in the introduction to the organization’s 2010 report that clearly outlines why professional development matters for teachers, students, and communities. Generation Ready, an educational professional development support organization, characterizes professional development as a comprehensive, ongoing, and intensive approach to improving teachers’ and principals’ effectiveness in raising student achievement.
Whether we look at professional development through a strategic or tactical lens, we have to agree that is an indispensable element for success in our efforts to prepare students for college and careers. The 2010 Learning Forward report states that “research has shown that teaching quality and school leadership are the most important factors in raising student achievement” and notes that professional development is the “only strategy school systems have to strengthen educators’ performance levels.” This is primary reason the Hinds County School District invests heavily in professional development for all of our staff members. It is one of the ways we ensure excellence in every classroom in every school.
Quality instruction and effective leadership are directly linked to the amount and types of professional development faculty and staff receive on an ongoing basis. In addition to in-person development like the trainings we will do roughly a month from now, we offer our staff access to online tools and resources to introduce and reinforce concepts and standards that will help them provide the best possible learning experience for our students.
The Learning Forward report accurately notes that “all schools should be places where both adults and students learn.” We seek to make every one of our schools a learning environment where students and staff learn from and with one another on a daily basis. In addition to the more formal professional development activities, we ensure teachers and principals have access to peers and coaches to help them to learn, develop, and practice effective teaching and leadership behaviors. As the Learning Forward report states, “all effective teaching is the result of study, reflection, practice, and hard work.” It is worth noting that this is the same series of steps our students are encouraged to use in their mastery of new concepts and skills. We are truly learning together on our journey to excellence.
Hirsh, Learning Forward executive director, also says policymakers, parents, and community members should advocate for educator professional learning that helps to ensure a successful education experience for every child in their community. We all have a part to play in helping develop the leaders and teachers who support our students, and I invite you to join us in helping to ensure excellence in every classroom throughout our district by celebrating the development accomplishments of our staff and challenging all of us to continue improving for the sake of the students we serve.
Friday, January 11, 2019
Everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Next Tuesday, January 15, is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a man who helped transform America and exemplified the spirit of service and sacrifice we strive to exhibit in Hinds County School District. We will celebrate Dr. King’s legacy as a nation on Monday, January 21, during a national day of service, and I encourage students, faculty, staff, and parents who are off to use this as an opportunity to serve others in the communities we call home. I am proud to share that so many of our students and teachers serve their fellow members of the HCSD family every single day through large and small acts of kindness.
In addition to helping students prepare to obtain college degrees and teaching them to make their subjects and verbs agree, we work to instill a sense of belonging, responsibility, accountability, and civic pride. Beginning with our elementary school students, we teach teamwork, communication, and service, and those lessons are reinforced in every classroom on every campus. We believe in nurturing and developing the whole student, which is why we help students build social skills, increase their emotional intelligence, and participate in community service activities. These activities are an important part of the learning experience and make students more well-rounded as they prepare for their lives after graduation.
Nationally, January 21 is recognized as the MLK Day of Service, and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has several suggestions on ways to honor Dr. King’s legacy by engaging in community service that helps solve social problems. Some of these ideas include hosting discussions about ways to address community challenges, providing food assistance, promoting healthy futures, and beautifying the community. There are several other ideas on the CNCS website, all of which can be done on any day of the year.
As we think and talk about how our schools, our neighborhoods, and our communities can be improved, let us always remember that we have an important and significant role to play in making these places better for everyone.
Friday, December 7: Testing, Testing
Testing is an important part of what we do. It can feel like a cumbersome chore at times, but tests are one way our students can display mastery of certain topics and concepts, which helps us understand how they are progressing in certain subject areas. With this knowledge, we can take the necessary steps to ensure each student graduates ready for college or a career, which may include providing additional support, such as tutoring or coaching.
Being prepared can remove some of the anxiety from the testing process, and Education Corner offers some solid test taking strategies that are valuable to students of any age. I’ve expounded upon a few of them below, and you can view the full list here.
As I’ve already mentioned, being prepared is essential for successful test-taking. Education Corner suggests spending adequate time understanding the subject area, which may mean taking extra time before school, after school, or over the weekend to review material and re-read course material.
Read Test Directions Carefully and Watch for Details
Understanding what you’re being asked to do is really important when taking a test. Whether it’s a word problem or essay, reading and rereading the question will help you gain clarity about what needs to be done to get to the correct answer. If a question is confusing, you may be able to ask your teacher to explain it to ensure you are clear on what’s being asked.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
If you’re prepared, you should be confident about your ability to succeed, and if that’s the case, you should walk into the classroom with a positive attitude about the test. Keeping that positive attitude throughout the test is important. Education Corner suggests not losing confidence or wasting time if you encounter confusing or difficult questions. Try answering the questions you know first to build and maintain confidence.
If you feel like you need additional help preparing for a test, don’t hesitate to ask your teacher or counselor. We are here to help every student gain the skills needed to succeed in life. Tests help us measure how well we’re doing and provide roadmap to help us get every single student in Hinds County School District to their destination on their individual journey to excellence.
Friday, November 30: Community Support
Many years of education research has shown “parent, family, and community involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement.” (Van Roekel, NEA Policy Brief, 2008) Former National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel discussed the importance of parent, family, and community involvement in a policy brief more than 10 years ago, and his insights are still relevant today.
Van Roekel notes that “when schools, parents, families, and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enroll in higher level programs.” This is true for students at every grade level, socioeconomic background, and family background. Community support matters, especially in the Hinds County School District.
We serve several very different types of communities that have different very different needs. That means community support will look different in each community. Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University has developed a research-based framework has described six types of involvement—parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community. These activities offer a broad range of school, family, and community activities that can engage various stakeholders and provides multiple ways for students.
Our community partners allow us to enhance our students’ learning experiences, immerse them in arts and culture, and obtain real-world experience. We will continue to develop and foster these types of relationships to ensure our students are well-prepared for college and careers
Friday, November 16: Giving Thanks
I wanted to send a brief note on behalf of every Hinds County School District faculty and staff member to let you know how thankful we are for your trust and your support. We thank you for entrusting the education and development of your children, and the encouragement you provide in our schools and throughout the community.
I also want to thank each teacher, principal, bus driver, interventionist, librarian, maintenance staff, support worker, and everyone else who works as a collective unit to help us achieve our goal of preparing students for college and careers.
We hope you have a restful week off and a very Happy Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 9: American Education Week
Next week is American Education Week, which is an opportunity for the national as a to celebrate public education and honor individuals who are making a difference in ensuring that every child receives a quality education. The National Education Association (NEA), an organization committed to advancing the cause of public education, was one of the founders and original sponsors of American Education Week, which began nearly a century ago.
The idea of the week was spawned from the realization by the NEA and American Legion that more support was needed for public education to ensure people were adequately prepared to serve their communities and their country. The same is true today. Public education, in Hinds County and places all over our nation, drives the success of our local communities, our state, and our country.
More than 50 million students attend public school in the U.S., and that number is expected to rise my nearly two million over the next ten years. In 2016, more than three million students completed high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Our job as educators is to ensure those individuals are ready to start college or begin their careers.
American Education Week is always celebrated the week prior to the week of Thanksgiving, which symbolic since we have to be thankful for the more than three million teachers who help students reach their goals. We have more than 400 teachers Hinds County School District who work hard every day to help our students experience authentic learning, enhance their character, and envision their dreams.
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