Superintendent's CornerDelesicia 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, Facebook, the Schoolway mobile app, and School messengerI 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!My best,Delesicia Martin
Monday, November 18, 2019: American Education Week Kickoff
Dear Dedicated Faculty and Staff Members,
Today marks the beginning of the National Education Association’s 98th annual celebration of American Education Week. Although every single week you devote to preparing our students for college and career success is important and significant, this week offers us an opportunity to invite other members of the Hinds County School District family, including parents, students, and community members, in a unified effort to build great public schools and maintain a culture of learning and excellence.
First, I want to thank each of you for the time and effort you are investing in our students, our schools, and our communities. It is your hard work that has helped transform the way we teach and learn throughout the district, accelerating our journey to excellence. Throughout this week, we want to join with educators and communities across the country to emphasize and recognize the different stakeholders who are critical in building great public schools for the nation's 50 million K-12 students, including:
- Monday, November 18: Nationwide Kickoff
Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education.
- Tuesday, November 19: Parents Day
We will recognize the role parents play in their child’s journey to excellence.
- Wednesday, November 20: Education Support Professionals Day
We will recognize the outstanding work of support staff who provide invaluable services to schools, students, and families.
- Thursday, November 21: Educator for a Day
We will highlight the importance of the role community members play in promoting a culture of learning throughout Hinds County
- Friday, November 22: Substitute Educators Day
We will honor the educators who are called upon to step in when our educators are unable to report to work, giving our educators the support they need to be their best at work and providing much-needed consistency for our students and staff.
Today, you should take a moment to acknowledge the hard work and effort of your peers. During the week, I want to encourage everyone to join in a celebration of the engaging and empowering work of all of our educators.
Friday, November 8, 2019: National Entrepreneurship Month
Last week, I wrote about scholarships, but during the month of November, we also celebrate entrepreneurship. During National Entrepreneurship Month, "we celebrate the remarkable and everyday successes of our entrepreneurs and innovators." We believe our career academies are helping create the next generation of entrepreneurs, as our students become familiar with careers in STEM, business, and several other fields. Our students are learning what career opportunities might be available to them and gaining a more comprehensive understanding of how they can become leaders, and possibly entrepreneurs, in those fields. A 2016 article on Entrepreneur shares five tips for aspiring entrepreneurs, and I've included three of those tips that I believe are also really relevant for academic achievement below.
- There's more to entrepreneurship than just a great idea. The author notes that "a great idea is just phase [one] of the plan." The concepts our students master help them figure out how to analyze information and complex systems, which are essential tools for any entrepreneur. We also encourage our students to share and test their great ideas through school organizations, which enable them to begin gaining entrepreneurial experience early in life.
- Be patient and persistent. Patience and persistence are important attributes for every student to master. Sometimes learning a particular concept takes a little longer, but being persistent and committing to learning, studying, and trying will help students find success. All growth takes time, and so being patient as your knowledge grows will help you deal with unexpected or unanticipated delays and setbacks.
- Ask for advice for those who are battle tested. We encourage students to share with their peers, so younger students should seek the advice and wisdom of older students and alumni. How did you study for that test? What was the most difficult aspect of your junior year? How did you decide which college to attend? These types of questions help students access a wealth of information that will help them make sound decisions and put them on a path to success.
Friday, November 1, 2019: National Scholarship Month
In September, I wrote briefly about the importance of saving for college, and this month, I want to discuss another important factor in ensuring students are ready and able to pay for college: scholarships. November is National Scholarship Month, and organizations across the country are helping raise awareness about scholarship opportunities for current and future college students. As the cost of tuition, books, and other expenses associated with college continue to rise, scholarships help make college more accessible for students and families.
In addition to the financial support scholarships provide, the process of applying helps students become families with planning and deadlines. Many scholarships require writing essays, which helps students become stronger writers. Thinking about scholarships also helps students focus on the future: what college they want to attend, what career fields they're interested in, or what change they want to make in the world. Focusing on the future can help improve performance in the classroom as students think holistically about what types of activities they need to engage in during their high school career.
Get2College has a great list of scholarships for Mississippi students, and students can search for state and national scholarship opportunities on Fastweb. If students need help finding or applying for scholarships, they should reach out to their school counselor for more information and support.
Friday, October 25, 2019: We Need Your Feedback - Parent and Community Survey
This week's message will be brief because we really need to hear from parents and members of the community. We are in the early stages of developing our next five-year strategic plan, and we need your feedback and input to help us create a plan that meets the needs of all of our parents and communities. The links for each survey are included below. If you have any issues accessing the links or want more information about the strategic planning process, feel free to give us a call or send us an email.
Friday, October 18, 2019: Red Ribbon Week
During Red Ribbon Week, schools and communities throughout the country share information about the personal and social dangers of drug use, with a specific emphasis on educating youth about the dangers of illicit drugs. This year's Red Ribbon Week, Send a Message. Stay Drug Free, dovetails with our district theme for this year, Acting for Impact. One of the most important ways we can have an impact on our children is by sending a message, whether we're having an in-person conversation, sending a text message, writing a note, or drafting an email. Taking the time to communicate with our children guarantees they will have the information they need to make healthy choices for their futures and helps them understand how much we value them.
The Red Ribbon Campaign website features a fact that underscores this point: children of parents who talk to their teens regularly about drugs are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those who don't, yet only a quarter of teens report having these conversations. That means three out of four teenagers may not be getting the information they need to make smart choices about their health. More importantly, three out of four teens may not be comfortable talking to their parents about issues that could affect their long-term health and wellness.
We are concerned about our students' health and well-being because we know it directly influences their ability to succeed in the classroom. The Centers for Disease Control notes healthy students are better on all levels of academic achievement: academic performance, education behavior, and cognitive skills and attitudes. Healthy students also miss fewer days of school, and school attendance plays is extremely important to student success. A 2015 analysis of research conducted by the National Institutes of Health suggested "school health interventions can promote positive health behaviors and improve both health and academic outcomes for students."
We are committed to supporting the positive growth and development of the whole child, and we will continue to invest in programs and activities that help students understand how to make healthy decisions.
Friday, October 11, 2019: National Arts and Humanities Month
Earlier this year, the Brookings Institute shared findings from a study that showed "a substantial increase in arts educational experiences has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes." Students in that study experienced a reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement in standardized writing scores, and an increase in compassion for others.
This type of research is important for educators and administrators, especially during National Arts and Humanities Month, because we often have to find creative ways to invest in the arts and humanities at the school and district levels. Arts and culture are a priority in the Hinds County School District, and we have benefitted from tremendous partnerships with organizations like the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra and Hinds Community College Montage Theatre of Dance as well as the commitment of our exceptional art educators (and other talented faculty and staff who finds ways to integrate art, music, and the humanities into their classroom instruction).
We have incorporated voluntary districtwide creative writing exercises to help students enhance their ability to express themselves, and every spring, we host a showcase featuring the artistic and musical talent of students from across the district. We also recently partnered with local artists to support high school students as they designed and painted murals in their schools representing what education should look like for Hinds County students in the future. We truly believe our investment in the arts has been integral to our success, and we look forward to building new partnerships that offer our students opportunities to explore ways to create all forms of artwork.
Friday, October 4, 2019: National Bullying Prevention Month
One in five students reports being bullied, but even one student is far too many. Students who experience bullying are more likely to suffer from depression and have negative physical health effects, such as headaches and stomachaches. The bottom line is that bullying has no place in any school, and we have to do everything in our power to eliminate bullying in the Hinds County School District.
October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and throughout this month, schools throughout the district will be participating in various activities aimed at creating a culture of acceptance, tolerance, and support. In addition to bringing in motivational speakers and providing opportunities for students to practice behavior, we also focus on helping students build character throughout the year. Not only does this help create welcoming and safe learning environments but it helps students build soft skills that will help them succeed in the workplace.
According to StopBullying.gov, a significant percentage of bullying happens in places like playgrounds, the bus, or in the neighborhood. Being aware of when bullying might occur can help parents and community members stop it from happening. The website also notes that "even if a child is not directly involved in bullying, they may be contributing to the behavior." This can include students who assist by encouraging bullying behavior or students who reinforce bullying behavior by providing an audience. We have to make sure our children aren't normalizing bullying behavior and that they know it's ok to tell an adult and to provide encouragement to a student who may have been bullied.
Finally, it's important for us to think about the language we use when we talk about bullying behavior. We never want to label children as "bullies" or "victims" because that might create or reinforce a negative stigma or stereotype. Bullying is simply a behavior that we want to eliminate in our schools and our communities, and we want to continue providing positive reinforcement and encouragement to all of our students.
Friday, September 27, 2019: Partnering with Parents for Powerful Results
Parents play such a critical role in the success of our schools. As a child's first teacher and biggest cheerleader, parents help ensure children are prepared for school and encouraged to do their best work every single day. We also rely on parents to give us feedback about how we can better serve all of our students, which is why we are constantly seeking feedback and input. In addition to parent and community meetings, we are currently asking parents to complete a brief survey that helps us better understand their experience with their child's school and the district, so we can continue to improve on our journey to excellence.
We are in the early stages of developing a strategic plan for the next five years, and if we are going to continue building on the momentum we've had over the last five years, we will need engaged and energized parents. We understand many of our parents have extremely busy schedules, which is why we're working hard to provide several different ways to stay informed and be involved in the education process. Even if you just complete our parent survey, send us an email, or share a message on social media, your input will help us develop a plan that propels all of our students toward success.
Even as we develop this new plan, there are certain priorities that will always be at the top of our list, including making sure our parents view our schools as a true asset to the community and ensuring our schools are welcoming environments for all parents. If you have thoughts or ideas on how we can create more opportunities for parents to be engaged, please contact John Neal, associate superintendent of community relations, at email@example.com or drop by the main office at your child's school.
Friday, September 20, 2019: Saving for College, Investing in a Bright Future
Saving for college can seem like an impossible feat for many families. The cost of college has increased significantly over the past few years, which is why preparing and saving for college has become more important than ever before. September is National College Savings Month, which makes it a perfect time to begin thinking about how you can make preparations for your child to go to college, no matter what grade your child might be in.
One of the first things to understand is that there are many different ways for your child to obtain the skills, credentials, or degrees they need to be successful after high school. Two-year colleges, technical schools, and four-year universities all have different benefits and offer various options for young people. One of the first steps is to begin talking with your child about what they are interested in and helping them identify college programs that may help them reach those goals. Our career academies enable every high school student to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business, and several other fields that will ultimately help them understand what type of college will be best for them. However, you don't have to wait until your child is in high school to start talking about and saving for college. Even saving a few dollars a month will go a long way in helping your child be prepared to pay for college when the time comes.
Trying to figure out how to prepare and pay for college on your own can oftentimes be confusing and frustrating. Get2College has lots of valuable information that can help you determine where to start and skilled counselors who can meet with you and your child to create a plan. These counselors will help you understand how to put together a financial package that ensures you can go to the college that meets your needs and sets you up for a bright future.
I also encourage you to reach out to school counselors about scholarship opportunities that may be available for your child. Knowing what opportunities exist can help you determine what courses your child needs to take, what extracurricular activities may be important, and what deadlines you need to take into consideration. Our goal is to make sure every student in the Hinds County School District graduates ready for college and careers, and we also want them to have the support needed to get to the college of their choice. If we can help you begin preparing for college in any way, don't hesitate to let us know.
Friday, September 13, 2019: Helping Students Reach their Personal Summit
Every year, the Office of Community Relations hosts the Hinds County School District Teen Summit, an opportunity for high school students from across our district to build valuable leadership, communication, teamwork, and prevention skills outside the classroom. This event is only possible because we have tremendous support from community partners, including parents, nonprofit organizations, law enforcement professionals, and businesses, that are committed to helping us ensure our students receive an exceptional educational experience that effectively prepares them for college and careers. We are extremely grateful for the continued support of these partners and are excited about the new partnerships we will make this school year.
During the summit, students hear from a motivational keynote speaker and attend workshops on a variety of topics, including cyberbullying, distracted driving, and personal health, which help them build soft skills and understand how to navigate the world around them. We believe adding these experiences to a rigorous academic curriculum produces well-rounded students who can compete on a national and global scale. A 2015 report from Child Trends highlights research that suggests soft skills "rival academic or technical skills in their ability to predict employment and earnings" and "the demand for such skills has increased over the past 20 years." The National Network of Business and Industry Association notes that employers emphasize the need for candidates with a "strong academic grounding in reading and math" along with skills and abilities, such as "teamwork, problem-solving, work ethic, and integrity."
One of our primary goals is to ensure every student graduates high school prepared for college and careers. Helping students build those soft skills are an important part of that preparedness. Activities like the Teen Summit a part of our robust efforts to offer students a mix of opportunities to learn from experts outside of the classroom and from their peers. For more information on the Teen Summit or to learn how you can support this event, call (601) 857-5222.
Friday, September 6, 2019: 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance
Every year at this time, we are reminded about the acts of heroism and courage on September 11, one of the most difficult days our country has seen in recent history. As we have many times before, we took this as an opportunity to come together and uphold our shared values and sense of community. Almost two decades have passed since that painful day, and our world and our communities have changed significantly.
What has not changed is the power of service and community. We place a high value on community service in Hinds County School District, and as we approach the anniversary we want to pay tribute to those who lost their lives by working "to rekindle the spirit of unity that arose after the attacks", as Alice Hoagland, a mother who lost her son on 9/11. I want to encourage our students, faculty, staff, parents, and community supporters to take this September 11 as an opportunity to serve in ways both large and small.
To find local volunteer opportunities, you can visit the 9/11 day website. I've also included some additional information, project ideas, and resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service below. For more information on volunteer opportunities within the district, contact your local school or send an email to John Neal, associate superintendent of community relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Every community has needs, large and small. September 11th and the surrounding days are opportunities to demonstrate your patriotism and make a commitment to address them by volunteering in honor of 9/11 and throughout the year.
- You can also create volunteer opportunities that represent personal causes. Lead a group to accomplish tasks that need a concentration of energy and people such as winterizing homes, or join a volunteer opportunity led by one of the thousands of organizations across the country recognizing this national day of service and remembrance
- Collect school supplies and deliver them to a local school (make sure to discover what they need first).
- Sign up to serve meals to those at risk of hunger.
- Work with a local food bank or pantry to collect donations.
- Sign up to be a mentor or tutor.
- Beautify a local park or community space – fall is a good time to plant trees and spring-blooming bulbs.
- Arrange a visit to a senior citizen center and join in their activities.
- Check with your local fire station and see if you can organize a fall clean up or serve them a meal.
- Arrange a visit to a veterans’ center and spend time with veterans or join an existing event. You can also check with the center to see if they need personal care items and launch a collection drive.
Friday, August 30, 2019: Attendance Awareness Month
Next month is Attendance Awareness Month, a nationwide recognition of the connection between school attendance and academic achievement. The goal of this month is to mobilize schools and communities to promote the value of good attendance and to take concrete steps toward reducing chronic absence. Improving student attendance is an essential, cost-effective strategy for ensuring student success and reducing achievement gaps. Across the nation, more than one in seven students is chronically absent, which means they are missing on average two or more days a month, or 10 percent or more of school days over the academic year.
Good attendance is essential to students short- and long-term success. Each absence represents a lost opportunity to learn in the classroom--time that sometimes can't be recovered. We recognize some absences are unavoidable, but many absences can be prevented by identifying and resolving barriers to attendance. We know students are more likely to attend school if they feel emotionally and physically safe, connected, supported, and believe they can learn and achieve. The culture of excellence we have been building is grounded in having caring and competent staff who are concerned about the well-being of the whole child.
Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when we work together as a community. Our first step is emphasizing the importance of school attendance and making sure children and families have the support they need to overcome any barriers to school attendance. If you want to join us in our efforts to increase student success by promoting good attendance, give us a call or drop by one of our schools to discuss ways you can partner with us.
Friday, August 23, 2019: Family Fun Month - Make Learning Fun
We believe learning can be fun, especially when families find ways to learn, explore, and reinforce the lessons children learn in school together. Family Fun Month is a great time to identify ways to show your children how fun learning can be and to learn new things together.
For new parents, Vroom has over 1,000 free activities that can help you add learning to mealtime, bathtime, bedtime, or anytime. UC Davis Integrative Medicine compiled a list of ways to celebrate Family Fun Month, and I've shared a few of those below along with ways to incorporate learning for the entire family. If you have other ways that you've integrated learning for the whole family, please share them us on our Facebook page.
- Visit a Museum: Discover a local museum and, after the visit, talk about what you saw together and what everyone liked best. The Mississippi Two Museums, Mississippi Art Museum, and Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center are a few great options for history, art, and culture that are just a short drive away.
- Enjoy a Movie Night: Another family get-together that everyone will love is to simply watch a movie. Pick an old favorite or something fresh. Make it a real screening, complete with air-popped popcorn! Netflix and PBS have some great documentaries about historical events and figures that your children may already be learning about in school.
- Cook Together: Spending time in the kitchen is one of my favorite ways to be with the family. You could enroll in a cooking class together or simply whip up a nutritious recipe at home, like our fun Make-Your-Own Tostadas! Cooking is a great way to practice mathematics by discussing measurements or history and culture if you explore cooking cuisines native to other countries.
Friday, August 16, 2019: Being Involved Begins with Being Prepared
Researcher and author Dr. James Comer once noted that "the purpose of school is not to raise test scores, but rather to prepare our young children to be successful in life. It starts with home life as early as possible.” There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the critical role parental involvement plays in student achievement, which is one of the many reasons we emphasize parent engagement and involvement at every stage of our students' learning, growth, and development.
The Waterford Institute cites research from the National Parent Teacher Association that indicates the best predictor of student success is the extent to which families encourage learning at home and involved themselves in their child's education. We understand that in order for parents to be involved, they must be prepared. That preparation starts with understanding what their children will be learning and how they can reinforce those lessons at home. The parent section of our website includes links to several important resources to help parents prepare for involvement in their child's education, including the 2019-2020 school calendar, Live Binder, and several other tools and resources.
These digital tools can help you stay abreast of what's happening, but I also invite and encourage you to become an active participant in your child's education. You can do that by attending events at your child's school when your schedule permits, reviewing school lessons with your child at home, or touching bases with your child's teacher or counselor or a regular basis.
One of the most important things you can do is to reinforce the importance of education at home. You should ensure your child is prepared for school each day, which starts with getting a good night's rest and eating a healthy breakfast (either at home or at school). As Dr. Comer explains in his quote, our shared purpose is to ensure our children are successful in life, and parental involvement is a significant contributor to that success. Studies show that students with engaged parents have better attendance, higher self-esteem, and higher graduation rates, which we know all contribute to success later in life.
We are here to be strong partners in your child's success now and in the future. If you have any questions or want to know other ways you can be engaged in your child's education, you can talk to your child's teacher, counselor, or principal or you can contact us at the Central Office at any time.
Wednesday, August 7, 2019: Welcome Back!
The summer months have seemed to race by, but the end of summer always marks the beginning of another year for us to progress on our journey to excellence. I hope your child’s experiences throughout the summer have helped them rest and refocus, so they can bring the full measure of their brilliance and creativity into each learning environment they enter this year. From the first day of school to the last, your involvement and investment in your child’s education will be one of the key factors to their success in the classroom and wherever their education may take them.
I understand work schedules can make it difficult to participate in every activity at your child’s school, but I encourage you to stay connected throughout the year. Whether you come to parent-teacher conferences or stay in touch with your child’s teacher via text messages, being up to date on what’s happening is an important way to monitor your child’s progress and provide any additional support they need to thrive. Our district website has several tools that will help you stay engaged throughout the school year and understand what your child is learning. In addition to all of the resources you'll find online, I've included a few other points we would like you to keep in mind as we start this new year.
- Be patient. The beginning of each new school year is full of activity, so we ask you to be patient with us as we work to make sure every child is set up for success early on. Throughout the year, you should also practice patience with your child. As they learn new concepts and settle in to their new routines, they may experience some slight ups and downs. Your support will help them stay on track for success.
- Be on time. It's essential for students to start school on time and to show up to school on time each day. Setting a regular schedule at home can help with this, including establishing times when technology is turned off and bedtime begins.
- Be aware. Safety remains our primary concern, so being aware of what's happening in your community is important. If you notice any concerning behavior or if your child shares any issues with you they may be experiencing at school, please contact a school administrator, counselor, or teacher immediately.
- Be prepared. Making sure your child is prepared for school each day is important, which includes having the necessary supplies and finding ways to reinforce learning at home. If you or someone you know needs any support obtaining school supplies, uniforms, or any other items a child needs to succeed, please contact our Office of Community Reations at (601) 857-7008.
Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa called education “the most powerful weapon … you can use to change the world.” I have no doubt we can change our communities, this state, and the world, if we work together to ensure our children have every tool they need to be successful. I look forward to another wonderful year as we take this journey toward excellence together.
- Monday, November 18: Nationwide Kickoff