With over 3,000 children crossing through the doors of the five schools within Clinton City Schools on a daily basis, Superintendent Dr. Stuart Blount said it is his job, as well as the job of the system’s staff, to make sure those children are receiving the best educational opportunities possible.
Blount and other staff members invited the public to a town hall-style meeting Tuesday night with the hopes of making sure the school system is meeting the needs of the community. With about 35 people, including board members, principals, teachers, administrative staff and community members, present, a panel took the time to answer questions submitted by the public.
The meeting was moderated by Ron Davis, teacher at Sampson Middle School.
“The purpose of tonight’s meeting is to hear from our community and provide you with valuable information,” Davis explained. “The most important thing we have is our students.”
After announcing the meeting to the public, questions could be submitted online, and the meeting was broadcast live through Facebook, where additional questions could be submitted. Blount, along with a panel that included Carol Worley, board chairperson; Dr. Kelly Batts, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction; Susan Harrison, finance director; Terrace Miller, assistant superintendent for human resources; Shirley Williams, director of student services; Cathy Ammons, teacher of the year; and Jennifer Pope, principal of the year, took turns answering the questions.
The night’s first question went to Worley, who was asked about the board policy in allowing the community to speak during the monthly board meetings and directly to school personnel. According to Worley, the community is given an allotted time during the regular board meeting for public comment. Those interested in speaking need only to sign up on a sheet when arriving at a particular month’s meeting. There are policies in place for contacting teachers, administrative staff and board members regarding concerns.
When questioned about race relations and the part it plays in student achievement, Blount said the two are tied together. The city of Clinton, and those that make up the population of the city, are ever changing, but the problems remain the same.
“We are not facing anything different than what we did 15 years ago,” Blount said. “What has changed is how we handle the situation.”
Worley shared that in her opinion, one of the biggest challenges school staff members face is the ever-changing demographics of the students.
“There may be things going on outside of school, and it’s our jobs to understand the situation and where they are coming from,” Worley said. “Every child is different.”
According to Miller, teacher retention is one of the biggest obstacles Clinton City Schools is facing. While the teacher turnover rate has dropped in the last year, Miller said the systems continues to work hard to retain the teachers through support.
“I strongly believe that beginning teachers stay because of the support they receive,” Milled shared.
Clinton City Schools’ turnover rate has dropped from 17.5 percent in the 2015-16 school year to 8.9 percent in the 2016-17 school year.
When asked about the budget, Harrison explained that the school system is working with a $30 million school budget, with those funds being divided into three categories — local, state and federal. Federal and state funds come with a mandate of spending, where there is more flexibility in local funds.
Student achievement and safety were two of the other concerns brought to the attention of the panel. Regarding student achievement, Batts said that Clinton City Schools has tools in place that allows teachers and administrators to measure where students are regarding their reading levels.
“There is so much more involved,” Batts explained. “We do a lot of things that are good for the whole child, not just one part.”
Administration has felt it was important for the community to come together and have a chance for their questions to be answered. This was the primary reason behind holding the town hall meeting for the last four years.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.