Sumter Co. Schools' Plan of Action

Livingston, Ala. A plan of action is in place to help improve three failing schools in West Alabama.

"By no means is Sumter County a failing system," says Sumter County Superintendent, Katie Jones Powell.

Instead, she says Sumter County Schools are constantly improving. Powell says that includes Kinterbish, York West End and North Sumter junior high schools. All three were labeled last year by the state as failing. This is despite the fact that North Sumter actually rated as having made Adequate Progress.

Superintendent Powell stresses that it's because of the state system's design that North Sumter is still on the list. By state standards, any school that rates as failing for three years out of a six year period remains on the failing list.

"Once you get on that list it takes about three years for you to get off," says Powell. "So, we're moving in the direction where the schools are making progress."

Superintendent Powell says that the goal is for North Sumter to be removed from the list within the next two years, and the other two to be removed within the next three.

"Parents are our most important component in a program because when we empower parents, we empower students."

For the last two years at least, the district has increased its push to reach parents by utilizing its automated telephone system. By doing this district officials send out alerts to parents not only during severe weather conditions, but also for things such as: student programs, parent meetings and even field trips.

With new principals at all three junior high schools that received the failing rating, Superintendent Powell says there is increased emphasis on professional development.

"We're constantly doing instructional walk-thrus, instructional audits and getting constant feedback with administers as to how we need to improve. We're not reaching them (students) all at one time, but we're slowly reaching them at whatever level they're on."

In all, the Sumter County School District has six schools. This includes: a vocational center, one high school, and four junior high schools, which serve students pre-k through the 8th grades.