Superintendents discuss district Accountability Report

PINE BELT, MS (WDAM) - "Being only one of four star school districts in the state of Mississippi , we recognized that as an unbelievable accomplishment," said Superintendent of Petal John Buchanan.

Words of pride coming from Petal School District's Superintendent Dr. John Buchanan. The Petal district received a star rating for the second year in a row. Buchanan says the credit goes to the teachers.

"Great teaching, absolutely great teaching. Love for what they do, and they dedicated themselves to going deep in the Mississippi state frame work and turning around and putting great lessons in front of good students," said Buchanan.

Lamar County School District also has good students according to Superintendent Ben Burnett.

"All 13 campuses combined went from a 185 to a 190. So, we made great progress this year. Not only progress as a district, but we have many individual schools who made great progress. We now have four star schools where we only had one. We had one school that went from academic watch all the way to high performing. We had one school go from academic watch to successful. So, we have no academic watch schools. We are all successful and above," said Burnett.

Burnett says those ratings say a lot about the schools especially since they were working with less funding.

"We cut $4 million dollars out of the budget. We did not add teachers, although we added 400 students last year. So, every employee in the school district had to do a little more with a little less money," said Burnett.

Elsewhere in the Pine Belt, Hattiesburg High School is under academic watch, even though the district remained successful overall. Hawkins Elementary is rated as low performing. But according to Hattiesburg Superintendent James Bacchus there is one school that out shined all the rest.

"The nine grade academy certainly had the notation of a star school. We are certainly proud of that," said Bacchus.

Bacchus added that he can't take credit for the district's successful rating.

"I credited it to the program that was put in place prior to me getting here. Certainly, they were focused and more intentionally looked at students and providing the proper feed back," said Bacchus.

Of the schools listed in the report, Laurel Superintendent Chuck Benigno says his district showed great improvement, closing a gap many found troubling.

"We had all six of our schools show improvement. Several of them had significant improvement. Three of our schools are rated successful , and the other three schools had tremendous improvement. One had a 39 point QDI jump. The other had a 10,  the year before had a 28 point jump. So you can tell that the Laurel schools are on the move," said Benigno.

Benigno says the district is under academic watch, and only two point away from being successful, which is a goal he says they are striving for in the next year.

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