By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Superintendent Dr. Otha Belcher told the Cleveland School District Board of Trustees at its meeting Monday illness continues to be a factor in a slight decline of average district attendance over the last couple of months.
“Sickness has hit us bad,” Belcher said. “The flu has hit a lot of people. There’s a lot of stuff going on with the kids especially in elementary. You’ve got the little ones touching everybody and then we’ve got sickness going around with students, kids, parents, everybody. It’s just hit our ADA a little bit.”
The current ADA district wide is 93.74 percent.
“Last year total we were at 94.32 and the year before we were at 94.49,” Belcher said. “We’ve had a steady decline for the last couple of years,” but he added the district is ahead of where they were last year at this time.
School principals have been tasked with developing plans to improve attendance and Belcher is working with the Mississippi Department of Education to address any possible truancy.
Belcher said the goal is to get the ADA at 95 percent or higher but it will take time to see that come to fruition.
“We’re going to put some plans in place to see how that works. It’s not going to be instantaneous. It’s just going to take a little time for the schools.”
Belcher said he recently visited Mississippi Delta Community College and has engaged in discussions on instituting early and middle college programs for the district using a satellite MDCC campus that would be installed in Cleveland.
“Our set time is the 21-22 school year,” Belcher said. “Early college and middle college will have the kids going to a site on our campuses to start preparing and doing things for college. The ultimate goal is for them to leave that schooling with an associate degree.”
Early college would begin with 9th grade and middle college would begin with 11th grade.
Belcher and MDCC have proposed the old Cypress Park building as a location they would consider for the satellite school.
North Bolivar Consolidated School District, West Bolivar Consolidated School District and Leland School District have also expressed interest in participating with MDCC in the plan.
“It would be a good thing for the community and also for the school district because the kids get a chance to come there, get these credits and hopefully leave our system with at least an associate degree.”
Belcher said he is visiting Quality Steel this week to develop a partnership with that company for resources and potential job opportunities for the upcoming welding classes.
“We’re trying to feed in and have a pipeline with Quality Steel,” Belcher said. “We really want them to come in and evaluate our facilities and see what they have because they’ve been saying they wanted to donate some stuff to us.”
Belcher noted that Quality Steel is not guaranteeing a job for every welding graduate from Cleveland, but the opportunity is good to have.
The paperwork to confirm offering welding classes is prepared for submission.
“We’re just waiting on MDE to give us the nod to say that we’re OK to do welding.”
State testing window opens on April 13.
“This is all what we’ve been working for the whole year,” Belcher said. “We work up to the testing window.”
Belcher also discussed his expectation for school principals to complete at least 10 classroom observations per week.
“Not long observations. We’re looking at walk-throughs,” Belcher said. “You should hit about 10 walk-throughs a week. Ten to 15 minutes you should be in (the classroom). That’s the main part of your job as the principal is to walk through the building. You have to know what’s going on in order to help fix it.”
Assistant Superintendent Teresa McCarty said the security upgrades throughout the district would be completed this month.