By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Cleveland School District Superintendent Dr. Otha Belcher hosted a parent information meeting Saturday at the Cleveland Central High School auditorium.
Belcher emphasized to attending parents his intended plans for the district and his need for the parents, teachers and administrators to work together.
“We need (your children) to come to school,” Belcher said. “I need them to come to school. Because the more they’re at school, the more instruction they get. The more instruction they get, they more likely they are to pass these tests. I need you to pass these tests so you can graduate because we need these graduation numbers to come up.”
Belcher discussed the district accountability grade, currently at a C, and emphasized the need for growth.
“You get no credit going into a new year,” Belcher said. “Everybody starts at zero. You all start at zero. So, you don’t get any credit for what you did last year.
“We’re really trying to get 599 points this year. We may or may not make it. We should climb up the ladder. We’re trying not to climb down the ladder or fall off the ladder.”
One idea Belcher has is to move third grade from D.M. Smith Elementary to Nailor Elementary in order to allow Nailor an opportunity to have a score on its own merits.
“What I want to do, and we’re trying to find a way to do it, I really want to move third grade from D.M. Smith to Nailor, because it’s not fair for that principal to get a grade and they don’t have any skin in the game.”
Bell Academy received a D score, which Belcher expects to improve immediately.
“Bell dropped a lot, but I can tell you this, I bet you they won’t stay there.”
Another of Belcher’s plans is to shift resources from going outside the district and keeping them inside, developing the district from within with homegrown resources.
“We’re trying to go less with consultants and more with people,” said Belcher.
“We hire people that can help our people get better at their job and we stop paying outsiders.”
Belcher said there are plans to hire certified interventionists at D.M. Smith and Cleveland Central Middle School.
Another of Belcher’s primary focuses in his first year has been a heavy emphasis on reading, with an introduction of accelerated reader across the district.
“If you can read, it makes a world of difference. Frustration level goes down. Performance increases. You have to read. Don’t matter what they read. You just have to get them to read. Trick them. Make a deal.”
A strategic plan for the district is in the works. Belcher expects it to be ready for board approval in March.
Belcher took the opportunity to squash rumors he had been asked about.
“No, we have not talked about building a school,” Belcher said. “Somebody asked me that at the board meeting. No, we have not. Are we going to start these talks? Yes, we are. Have myself and the board had any of these talks? No, we have not.”
Belcher promised transparency when those conversations begin.
Belcher also shot down a rumor that Pearman Elementary was closing.