CMSD eyes grades, spending decisions


With the recent lack of academic success in the Clarksdale Municipal School District, including a failing grade from the Mississippi Department of Education in October 2019, the district had reservations about approving certain items on the agenda at the Feb. 20 meeting.

Five items were tabled for further discussion at a later meeting. One proposal was to hire Shepard Education Group, LLC for $12,000 from Title I funding to help the district meet federal programs requirements. Another proposal was to hire Academic Educational Services, LLC to provide assistance about parent engagement for $2,000 from Title I funding.

The board also tabled a student trip to the New Orleans Saints facility to learn about sports medicine. The other two proposals tabled were to sell a hot holding cabinet and 10 salad bars at J.W. Stampley 9th Grade Academy.

“We don’t want to seem like we don’t want programs to come in,” said board member Sherley Fields explaining why there were concerns. “We want to know what’s working and what’s not working. When we see that these same programs are coming in, we’re concerned. We want to see that our students are growing and our district is moving forward. We’re kind of reluctant.”

Board president H. Clay Stillions also had concerns and mentioned some of the Title I program proposals.

“I wouldn’t term it reluctant,” he said. “We want to proceed with caution. We realize this is federal money. It’s not coming out of our budget. It’s not coming out of local tax dollars. Well, in a way it is, because everybody pays federal tax, so it does, but we want to make sure we we’re spending every dime and getting a return. We want to spend it efficiently. We want it to be effective. We throw a lot of money at these programs and we haven’t seen a whole lot of results.”

Board member Joan Morris agreed.

“We are not criticizing anybody in this,” she said. “We just want to work together and we need to know what’s going on.

“We want to make the right decision for our students. That’s my only concern, the students.”

Stillions said students were one of the main functions of the district.

“We’ve been missing that goal. This may be premature,” said Stillions, adding he was told changes have been made to improve the district, but he will not know for sure until more test results come in.

Board vice president Delores S. Harris said services should help with the district’s strategic plan and that is not happening.

“We want to see the results,” she said. “We’re seeing an overlapping of the same consultants and we’re in still the same boat as two years ago, last year. That’s the goal. We have our strategic plan. That’s what we’re supposed to follow.”

Discussion about hiring Shepard Education Group, LLC for $12,000 from Title I funding to help the district meet federal programs requirements sparked the dialogue about the lack of academic success.

Director of federal programs Dr. Manika Kemp said hiring Shepard Education Group would help prepare for upcoming projects as part of school wide plans.

“There are several different things we do during this time of year, which previously we’ve done before,” Kemp said.

“We generally start after we receive results from our comprehensive needs assessment.”

Kemp said Feb. 28 is the last day of the comprehensive needs assessment.

“It takes about 30 days to get the results and then thereafter we’ll start the work,” she said.

Kemp said, earlier in the year, the board agrees on the specific needs that must be addressed and the amount of funds that can be used to hire professional services.

“We make sure that those professional services are providing based on what has been approved by you all as well as you all and the department of education,” she said.

The proposed trip to the New Orleans Saints facility to learn about sports medicine would be March 13 to 14.

“According to the documentation here, there are 11 students that will be transported via district school bus,” Harris said. “The rationale for them going was to observe sports medicine in action Am I correct in some way? Give me clarity on that.”

Superintendent Dr. Earl Joe Nelson was not at the meeting due to illness, but was available on speaker phone.

Assistant superintendent Dr. Toya Matthews attempted to answer questions about the trip.

“They’re going to the New Orleans facility to observe them in the work they’re doing in the class, which is sports medicine,” Matthews said. “So it’s actually a hands-on experience for them to see how the New Orleans Saints athletic trainer works with the team. They went last year, if I’m not mistaken.”

“I don’t ever want to deny our students from any opportunity or educational experiences, but is there not a university or something closer we could go to instead of going to New Orleans?” said Stillions in response.

“I’m not trying to play hard ball here. That’s an expensive trip. They have to stay overnight. They may have to stay overnight anywhere.”

Matthews said the Saints would take care of registration and the students would pay for their hotel rooms.

Stillions said a motion could be considered to approving the trip to New Orleans pending details regarding expenditures. No motion was made, so the matter was tabled.

The board did unanimously approve the Jobs for Mississippi Graduates organization going on a trip to Jackson March 27-28.

“That was to approve an in-state trip,” Harris said.

Little discussion occurred for the other items tabled.

Stillions hopes a decision is made about the tabled items in the near future.

“We will do this in a very timely manner,” he said. “We don’t want to leave anyone hanging.”


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