Special Report: Meridian Public School District

By: Tametria Conner Email
By: Tametria Conner Email

Every school year has its challenged. But some parents, faculty, and staff have told Newscenter 11 this year is worse in the Meridian Public School District.

The issues range from weapons, drugs, and sex on campus, to personnel matters.

In many cases, people within the district were reluctant to go on camera out of fear of losing their jobs. Even some parents expressed concern that their children might be targeted if they talked.

"It's a mess and I don't know who to blame," said a teacher who spoke on condition of anonymity, because of fear of retaliation.

The teacher said the district is spiraling downward and students are suffering because of it.

"It's been made clear from day one that teachers are not in charge. The control has been taken away and we, I'm speaking for teachers as a whole, feel powerless," said the teacher.

This veteran teacher said problems have been present, but this school year, the lack of discipline is at an all-time high and teacher morale is at an all-time low.

"Teachers need to be allowed to go back in their classrooms and teach without fear of retaliation from students, parents, and central office," the teacher said.

"I was always told that I didn't speak about anything," said Linda Peaveyhouse, a former bookkeeper at Meridian High School.

For over four years, Peaveyhouse said she saw it all, but was told to keep quiet about it. Peaveyhouse said she was fired in October 2008 because her son and a student ran away together, and officials thought she was involved.

Peaveyhouse noted several incidents this school year, where she says policy was not enforced for every student and there's no consistency.

"Just not weapons; it was fighting, sex on campus between students," said Peaveyhouse. "I mean, there were multiple things that the kids have gotten away with, as I would call it. It was one instance where a boy had a box cutter and he gets expelled for 10 days, but we've had other instances where kids have knives and they take it away. And that's all."

Meridian superintendent Charlie Kent confirmed there were dozens of incidents this school year throughout the district, but there are a few that have many on alert: the recent Kate Griffin Junior High weapons incident, a student attack on a teacher at Northwest Junior High, a 6th grade Magnolia Middle School student with possession of crack cocaine and sex on campus at Meridian High. And many say they want to know how the district plans to tackle these issues.

"I'm not trying to hide it, color coat it or sweep it under the rug," said Kent. "They happened and we've dealt with them."

Kent said these are societal issues that are creeping into schools and he says the schools get blamed for it.

"I may take some heat for this. That's not a district issue," said Kent. "The district is part of something that's happening in society. The child didn't get the drugs from school. It was brought to school."

"My concern is the frequency or the severity of what's going on. We have a great responsibility here."

School board President Edward Lynch said policies are not always being followed and many are very weak. He said that's a problem.

"This community is speaking very plainly and very loudly about what they want to see ,and it's ultimately up the school board to give them what they want," said Lynch. "And basically, they want safe and orderly schools and an environment that's going to be conducive to a good education."

The full interviews with Peaveyhouse and the anonymous teacher are available for viewing on the site, in the video section on the right side of the home page.

In Part 2, Kent talks more about his reaction to these incidents and his plans to reduce school violence. Lynch will talk about policy changes for the next school year.


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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Concerned Location: Somewhere Over There on Jun 13, 2009 at 03:19 PM
    What concerns me is that the parents of Mississippi(MS) expects everything to be free when it comes to public education. They refuse to supply their child with school supplies & materials.Refuse to attend PTA/PTO & board meetings. Parental support is important to a school district, & since the schools in MS is missing this component, schools in MS is on the bottom across the United States.You can't find 1 high school in MS on the best list.MS residents need to get together & unite (all races pulling together). Why is it okay for a white teacher or other staff members to teach at the public school system for income, but refuse to enroll their child in the same school system where they work? As long as MS is divided by race, the less MS will accomplish. Failure to unite is affecting all the children--white & black. A divided house cannot stand, it will soon fall, & MS is falling. It's not just Meridian, it is all the schools in the state. People it is time to WAKE UP AND UNITE.
  • by Dedicated Teacher Location: Meridian on Jun 11, 2009 at 10:02 AM
    I have also spent upwards of $1000 and most years above that. This year I had even more students who did not even come with paper and pencil and would make comments like "My mama said if you wanted me to have these buy it yourself!" In talking with the parents it was obvious they were not going to provide it, so it was better for me to make the purchase than to have the students disrupting class taking from other students who's parents provide for them. The small amount of money distributed by the district is not enough per teacher to take care of all the needs in classes. I know of many teachers like myself who are spending the money to supplement the needs in their classes. Most teachers in this district go above and beyond the call of duty because we truly care about the children. It is sad that we are not appreciated for our hardwork and dedication to the children we serve and have served for many years.
  • by To: QUESTION June 7 @ 7:00 Location: Meridian on Jun 10, 2009 at 04:11 PM
    There have been years when I've spent upwards of $1,000 (occasionally more) on items for my classroom and for the students. I know several other teachers who have done the same.
  • by Question Location: Nearby on Jun 7, 2009 at 05:30 PM
    Can anyone tell me if the same problems exist in LPSD?
  • by Question Location: Meridian on Jun 7, 2009 at 05:00 PM
    I've calculated arbitrary numbers for 14 executives and their secretaries and I've come up with well over a million dollars for salaries. Am I correct? Would anyone care to share the real amount? If it is this much, we could do major things for our children and classroom teachers to address smaller class sizes and help with those who are causing major disruptions. Their are many teachers in this district who do not even have textbooks or enough supplies. There are students who do not provide the assigned materials they need either because they cannot afford it or refuse to invest in class supplies- yet these students have on $300.00 tennis shoes or designer jeans on blue jean day. Teachers are paying for these materials out of their personal money hoping to keep children engaged to cut down on behavior problems who would disrupt because they do not have or providing for those who truly need a helping hand. I'm not talking about a few dollars out of their pockets I'm talking major bucks.
  • by Taxpayer Location: Meridian on Jun 7, 2009 at 05:42 AM
    To Question: Apparently, top salaries are a secret, which raises concern.
  • by Question Location: meridian on Jun 3, 2009 at 05:16 PM
    Who can share the salaries of all 14 administrators for the 2009-10 school year that were listed on the adminstrator's web page? Does anyone know or is this a big secret?
  • by william raye on Jun 2, 2009 at 06:48 PM
    To Jim: The fact that you have had two children graduate with honors from MHS is hardly an objective argument for the safety of its students. Im glad for your childredn and all the kids who have worked hard to do well. However, many of us believe we have serious problems in mpsd. I dont buy the concept that our schools have to be a reflection of societies worst. I understand that drugs,sex and violence are pervasive in our world and we can expect them to crop up everywhere. In spite of this I tire of people suggesting that is how it is, now live with it. We can do better than that. You also use stats to advance an opinion. Twain said: Man has lies, big lies,enormous lies and then statistics. I paraphrased but you get the point.Jim Im gonna guess you are part of the northwood bourgeoisie, who was born into privilidge and never had a really hard day. Nothing wrong with that. Im just suggesting you may be out of touch.
  • by Please inform us! on Jun 2, 2009 at 10:04 AM
    To Joe Clark Jr: Can you share the salaries of the 14 top CO cabinet members?
  • by Joe Clark Jr. Location: Shucktown on Jun 2, 2009 at 07:01 AM
    The school board of MPS are appointed by the Mayor of Meridian. That is the first change that needs to happen. The people must step foward to make that change. I do believe Meridian education woes are about color..The COLOR GREEN. Think about, between MPS and the county school system you have the most "Recsession Proof" jobs around. Poorly skilled teachers returning year after year. all these teacher aren't bad,just un-supported professionally . Have you seen the budgets for the school systems? HUGE. These board members are truly to blame. The superintendent only makes reccomendations to the board. the board cuts the check and makes the money rain. Good project or bad project the board has the final say. I have come to noticed that they had been there longer than any of the school officals without any accountabi
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