Graduation rates improve in County

One of the biggest announcements to come from Simpson County School Board at their last meeting is that graduation rates in Simpson County have surpassed not only the state but also the national average. 

The state and national rates are 83 percent and 84 percent respectively.  Last year the district graduation rate was 81 percent.  This year the county has increased to almost 86 percent with the state and national averages remaining the same as the previous year.     

Mendenhall High School’s graduation rate is 89.18 percent, and Magee High School’s rate is 80.9 percent.  Magee improved from 80.3 percent and  Mendenhall from 82 percent.   

In this year’s Third Grade Reading Gate Test, Magee Elementary attained an 80 percent passage rate.  Mendenhall Elementary scored an 86 percent passage rate, and Simpson Central third graders scored a 97 percent passage rate. 

Magee Elementary tested 116 students with 78 passing the first time; 28 students were retested with six passing and nine  exempted for “good cause.”  This gave Magee an 80 percent passage rate.  The state average is 82 percent. 

Mendenhall Elementary tested 91 students with 59 passing on first attempt; 21 students were retested with four passing  and 15 exempted for “good cause,” resulting in a total of 78 for an 86 percent passing rate. 

Simpson Central tested 65 students with 47 passing first time.  Seven were retested. Five passed and 11 were given a “good cause” exemption.  This equaled 63 of 65 students passing for a 97 percent passage rate. 

Other areas that needed additional work included math scores at Magee Middle School.  Deputy Superintendent Debbie Davis said that issue is being addressed.  Magee Middle School showed improvement in reading.

Mendenhall Elementary has made marked improvement in Reading with 68 percent of students reading on grade level.  They are also showing substantial improvements in math. 

Simpson Central continues to maintain strong numbers in testing. 

In other business, the board has agreed to work with Richton Tie and Timber for a lumber yard  to be located on 16th Section land on Highway 49 South of Magee on the west side.  The tract of property will have to be re-classified as commercial from the existing agricultural use.   It is currently being used for growing timber and is leased for hunting. 

The terms of the lease are for ten years.  Richton will pay the school district for 30 acres of land with a lump sum payment of $9,000 for existing timber and then $3,750 a year, ($125 per acre), for ten years.  The initial payment will be for $12,750.  The contract will be renewable after ten years and will be determined either through the tax assessor’s office or through an appraisal, whichever figure is higher.

The board also acknowledged retiring members of the Mississippi Forestry Commission, which Superintendent Greg Paes described as invaluable to the district and their management of timber land.      

The board approved an insurance quote of approximately $395,000 for insurance for the school district through Joe Lee of Southgroup Insurance, and a supplemental policy for student accidents in the amount of $26,265. 

School lunches will be increased for the next school year to $2.75 from $2.45, and breakfast will go to $2.50 per meal. 

Board members discussed banning hoodies from the dress code because students wear them pulled up in the classroom despite the fact that this is against the regulations in the student handbook.  Members expressed concern that  students could not be recognized outdoors if they were wearing hoodies and that because the campuses are open to traffic wearing hoodies pulled up creates safety issues. 

One of the parents at the meeting expressed concern about the change and what it would cost her family.  She said the issue of wearing hoodies in class was an administrative issue.  She said the teachers should be able to deal with the problem. 

The board approved $879,813.09 in asset disposal.  This represents the original cost of equipment and not the depreciated cost.  The majority of this figure comes from the disposal of non-serviceable equipment from the bus barn, mainly $635,684.22 worth of old 1990 model buses, most of which are deemed unsafe. 

The board also recognized long term retiring employees: Dean Batton 37 years, Martha Cole 15 years, Robert Conway 31 years, Tanya Evans 27 years, Sherry Fortenberry 35 years, Renette Magee 23 years, Cora Mabsby 20 years, Mary May 39 years, Mary McQueen 28.5 years, Linda Parker 29 years, Marilyn Pudas 34 years and Julie Warren 28.5 years.  The combined number of years of service to the school district is 347 years. 

On Friday, June 14, the board accepted bids for a resurfacing the parking lot at the Mendenhall High School in the amount of $211,216 from J&L Enterprises.  The low bid for re-roofing the Vo-Tech building was $124,999.99 from Norman Roofing.  The low bid for construction of a new bus barn in Magee was from Powell Construction at $81,000.