PETAL, MS (WDAM) - Faculty and staff of the Petal School District kicked off 2014 with a positive start at Monday's "State of the Schools" address.
Superintendent Dr. John Buchanan applauded the schools for their work in making the district an 'A' rated school district this year, the third highest ranking district in the state.
"I think the number one thing is we have such support from our administrators, from our fellow teachers," said Petal High School principal Steve Simmons. "The Petal community is very involved in our school district, also our school board."
Awards were presented to teachers of the year at each school as well as Teacher of the Year for the district, which was presented to Sharon Hillman of Petal Primary School.
"Teacher of the year really goes to my students because they inspire me on a daily basis to be the best because they deserve the best," said Hillman. "If you don't lay a strong foundation, then eventually it's going to crack."
Dr. Buchanan focused his report on the goals of continuing excellence in all schools, saying past and current achievements are "nothing new for our district… and it's something we can't stop."
"[It's] a culture that started long before I was principal on academic achievement, and it's just something that we continue," said Simmons. "We expect to finish high in the state ratings every year, and we've been able to do that."
With the implementation of Common Core State Standards hitting Mississippi this school year, Buchanan made it extremely clear to his faculty that Petal School District is in full support of these standards. Although the implementation has been controversial in the eyes of some individuals, Buchanan and Simmons both said that Common Core is a big part of the reason Petal students have succeeded so highly inside and outside the classroom.
"We've been teaching these types of standards,which causes students to think deeply, more critical type thinking skills, we've been doing that for a long time, so to be quite honest, it wasn't that big of a change for us," explained Simmons.
Buchanan also said he hopes over the next three years, Petal High School will increase its current graduation rate of 80.2 percent to 90 percent.
"Drop out prevention is not a grades 9-12 issue," said Buchanan. "It's a K-12 issue."
He also mentioned the costs of absenteeism for the district averaging $250,000. While Petal Schools has a 94.43 attendance rate, Buchanan said he hopes that increases to 97 percent in the next few years.