Assignment Education Series: Newton Municipal School District

Newton, Miss. (WTOK) - Today Newscenter 11 is kicking off a look at several local school districts, and their recently released ratings. We are starting with the Newton Municipal School District, which has faced a number of challenges in recent years. They include:

1. Receiving "F" or "D" ratings.
2. Monitoring a push to start a charter school in Newton
3. Facing a petition drive last summer to remove the now former superintendent for the district.

These are just some of the issues that Newton Municipal Schools have faced. However, administrators say none of that compares to what's happening right now.

"The good news is we're a 'C' district," says Superintendent Nola Bryant. "I know that in the past three to four years the trend was for the district to have an 'F' to a 'D'. So, this is a 'C' rating year. I had nothing to do with that. That is the previous administration."

This is Dr. Nola Bryant's first year on the job as superintendent for the Newton Municipal School District. With things on the upswing, her plan is to continue the progress.

"We progress monitor our bottom or lower 25% every two weeks," says Bryant.

By critically analyzing data regularly from each student, Dr. Bryant says the district is able to ensure that the curriculum and comprehension for students is in line with state standards. This past year the strategy worked and helped to improve Newton High School's rating from a "D" to a "B".

"It was truly our teachers changing their instructional practices," says Newton High School Principal, Shernise Wilson. "It was the community coming in for support. Whenever we needed students in for tutorials, our parents had them here. Our teachers were willing to stay after school to work with our students with those deficits and that truly made the difference this year."

To encourage academic achievement the district also offers, "Dress for Success or Dress to Impress Fridays." This is an incentive that allows students who do not have any disciplinary write-ups, and those who have completed all of their work for the week to dress as they desire, with limited restrictions.

"We're going to continue to put more incentives in place," says Wilson.

By establishing a special support program for new teachers and an advisory board made up of community members, Superintendent Bryant says this year's goal is for all schools and students to have at least 68% growth.

"I want every school in this district to be an 'A'," says Dr. Bryant. "Can we do it in one year? I think it can be done, but certainly by year two we're there and I see us there!"

More than 1,000 students attend the Newton Municipal School District, and it has roughly 180 faculty members.