WLBT reporter David Kenney laid down some serious wood in his reporting on the Mississippi Department of Education audit of Jackson Public School earlier this week. Kudos to Mr. Kenney for actually reading the report and telling his audience what was actually in it, unlike another reporter at the state newspaper. See for yourself.
Nice job by Mr. Kenney. Meanwhile, take a look at how "Bracey Harris reported the story (nearly a month after it was released) in the "state newspaper":
The Jackson Public School District is expected to file a response next week to an audit conducted by the Mississippi Department of Education that resulted in a recommendation for a downgrade in the district’s accreditation status. (Now that is an opening line that is going to make people read the rest of the story.)
The state’s second largest school district is at risk of starting the new academic year on probation pending the outcome of the August 16 hearing before the Commission on School Accreditation.
The recommended downgrade from accredited to probation comes after the district was cited for violating 22 of the state’s 32 accreditation standards during the on-site audit conducted over the course of three weeks in April.
Some of the most serious violations alleged in the evaluation are that principals’ “hands are tied” when it comes to administering discipline with Superintendent Cedrick Gray overturning their discipline policies, failures to operate according to school board policies and to ensure a “positive, safe and secure school climate exists for students.”
Problems with record keeping were cited at length in the report. According to the audit, JPS's failure to report complete and accurate documents to MDE was a direct violation of the State Board of Education's accreditation requirements. A review of documents during the process, indicated at least six high schools — Callaway, Murrah, Forest Hill, Jim, Lanier and Wingfield — had graduating seniors for the 2014-2015 school year that did not meet graduation requirements.
More than 100 pages address maintenance issues including bats in an auditorium, a need for pest control in a cafeteria, outdated fire extinguishers and abandoned portable classrooms where lewd acts were alleged to have taken place. Other safety hazards mentioned are a broken eye washing station in a school’s chemistry lab, a classroom with bars on all the windows, inoperable toilets, exposed pipes and wiring and broken glass.
Problems with the district's bus fleet, including tardiness and needed repairs are also addressed. In May, Gray told The Clarion-Ledger that $500,000 lost to a state mandated budget cut could have purchased five new buses for the district.
In a statement, Gray, who declined to address specifics in the report ahead of the district’s official response to MDE, said leaders had already identified some of the findings cited by MDE, referring to the process as one that could “enhance” the district. (That is less than 1% of his budget. Nice try, Dr. Gray.)
“We have assembled a team of administrators to prepare the District’s response. I have the utmost confidence in our JPS administrators,” said Gray. “All are ultimate professionals and understand what’s at stake.” (Notice how he focuses on spinning it, not actually fixing any problems or admitting there is a problem.)
According to MDE, many professional positions in the district are filled by staff who do not have a valid Mississippi Teacher’s License. The audit also found that there are teachers who are not properly endorsed for the subject they are teaching.
The review found that 79 of the 1,643 certified teachers in JPS “are working outside their areas of certification in academic core subjects,” while 200 have no certification or are improperly certified.
Another concern highlighted was the district’s high teacher turnover rate, which in some cases resulted in students being “merged into other classes in which the same subject matter was not being taught.”
“The students were monitored by the classroom teacher, but received no instruction,” the report stated....Rest of article
Talk about burying the truth in a bunch of gobbledygook. Mr. Kenney nailed it. Ms. Harris didn't. The sad part is all Ms. Harris had to do was copy and paste from the actual report as it contained some rather explosive statements:
the superintendent does not provide effective educational leadership in key areas including management of district personnel, effective implementation of policies, and the development of board and community relations.
The Superintendent fails to ensure that school facilities are maintained according to standards required for clean, safe, and orderly schools.
The school board has failed to effectively perform its duties in its role of oversight of management for the District as prescribed by law.
reports from individual schools revealed that a number of teachers had left the District and their classes are now covered by substitutes or either their students were merged into other classes in which the same subject matter was not being taught. The students were monitored by the classroom teacher, but received no instruction. A detailed personnel listing was provided to a staff member at one (1) school and the staff member indicated 12 professionals out of 30 were no longer teaching at the school.
In addition, auditors reviewing student records viewed documentation of students being absent for as many as 90 days and still passing courses and earned Carnegie units.
A review of student records for seniors of school year 2014-2015 indicates that a large number of records contain no documentation verifying that students have passed all four (4) end-of-course subject area tests.
Of the 75 School Safety Officers (SSOs) employed, 18 have not attended the School Safety Officer Basic Course as offered by the Mississippi Department of Education, Division of School Safety.
Safety in the Jackson Public School District is of major concern. There have been numerous complaints made against the District by parents, faculty, teachers, students, and concerned citizens. For example, there was a rash of violent fights at Jim Hill High School during the 2015-2016 school year. According to video footage, a parent was in possession of a firearm in her purse. The parent in question was later arrested. There have also been reports of violent fights at Lanier High School.
safety issues ranged from faulty doors, to parents being allowed to roam hallways, to violent fights, to not enough safety personnel.
It is reported District personnel are not allowed to contact JPD. The lack of School Resource Officers (SROs) deployed at schools causes the response time to be severely strained. In addition to lack of SROs, there are not enough Campus Enforcement Officers to answer the amount of calls, and officers are expected to cover too many schools.
Students roam the halls at all times... In several of the classrooms visited, students were observed watching videos on their cell phones. (Callaway)
The metal detector at the front of the school was observed alarming several times as students entered the school, but no students were stopped or checked.• First period classes started late. Class should begin at 8:20 a.m. Two (2) classrooms had no teacher at 8:55 a.m., and students were observed still arriving to school. Two (2) teachers were observed arriving on campus after 9:00 a.m. • Buses are late daily. (Jim Hill)
There is a lack of supervision, particularly in the stairwells and the area by the stairwells. Students roamed the halls, other classrooms, and the building, at will. • Student cell phone use was rampant. • Students were playing on their phones and watching movies on tablets during instruction times. (Lanier)
At least ten (10) other students were observed sitting around telling stories and cursing. The teacher was sitting on a stool in the middle of the room playing on his phone. (Lanier)
None of those quotes made it into the newspaper. Some of the reporters have gotten quite good at copying press releases. If there was a time to copy and paste, this was it. Ms. Harris also dropped the ball and missed a chance to compare and contrast these findings with this April 6 statement by Dr. Gray on the upcoming audit:
Gray said the he has known the review was coming and welcomes it.
"Districts will likely be dinged for willful neglect, which we don't have," he said. "We will take a close look at our policies and practices and improve on them."
That quote screams to be reprinted again in the current story. So much for critical thinking as it is non-existent in this article. There were many more similar quotes and findings in the audit. Read them at these earlier posts:
JJ post on Audit, Part I
JJ post on Audit, Part II
Readers can speculate why this story was written the way it was. One must wonder if Ms. Harris even read the full report. It was bad enough that the Clarion-Ledger ignored this audit for nearly a month. However, it is a 247-page report and it did require me to spend a couple of hours reading it and taking notes. It took more time to actually write the story. Mr. Kenney did his job. The other reporter, well, let us just say we report and you decide.
Kingfish note: Meanwhile, JJ will repost what was published at the end of the Part II:
What does one say? This audit shows an administration and school board that is more than incompetent, they are dangerous to their employees and students. One can only imagine how JPS will respond to these findings. Expect the race card to be played because it is all they have left. When you see it played on WMPR and other places, ask the card holder if he has actually read the audit. JJ warned you when Dr. Gray was hired that the school board was out of control. Hell, they blew off a great offer from Jim Barksdale. They have abdicated their moral leadership and right to lead this community.
They all should resign but unfortunately, we will be afflicted with their tenure for quite some time. The next time a school board member shrieks about due process, perhaps someone should ask him where the due process is for these kids who are beaten and threatened with guns at school. Who looks out for them? What about the due process for the teachers who are beaten or intimidated by their students? When do we get due process for those who actually deserve instead of those who try to hide behind it?