State Rep. Randy Pierce, the chairman of the Mississippi House Education Committee, along with other members, was in Meridian Wednesday to visit Meridian's only Level 1 school, classified as a priority school.
West End Elementary School may be a little behind, but after the meeting with school officials, Pierce said he is optimistic about the future.
"I am very optimistic after meeting with the superintendent and the principal here that next year we are not going to be seeing a Level 1 school," said Pierce. "Leadership matters and I think we have seen that leadership in this school is outstanding."
That leadership starts with principal Owida Roberts. In her second year as principal of West End, she said she is determined to motivate the students and get the parents more involved. She said the first step is to listen to the parents' needs.
"Instead of coming up with all these fun creative activities that we think are going to be wonderful, it is actually getting down to the parent and saying to the parent, 'What is it you need for us to do for you?'" said Roberts.
Parents are often more involved when the child is just starting school, but by as early as the third grade, parental involvement begins to drop in school activities, authorities say. Keeping the parents involved increases the child's chance for success.
But officials say the teachers can't teach without the proper tools. Meridian Public Schools superintendent Sylvia Autry said this is another key to success.
"We certainly want to be sure that our teachers, first of all, have the proper tools they need. We want to be sure they have the state framework, the blueprints that come from that framework to teach children," Autry said.
Rep. Pierce added that all the Level 5 schools have one thing in common: teamwork between teachers, parents, and students.