Friday, September 8, 2017

Priester speaks on JPS

Jackson Ward 2 City Councilman Melvin Priester, Jr. took to the pages of Facebook to comment on the possibility of a state takeover of JPS:


Here's a summary of what's going on with JPS.

In August of last year, the state department of education (MDE) released the result of a limited audit of a handful of JPS schools. That audit led to an audit that looked at every school in JPS. The results of the comprehensive audit were released yesterday.

MDE's accreditation committee will meet on Sept. 13 to discuss the audit and vote on whether an "extreme emergency" exists. Then they will pass their recommendation to the full MDE board for a meeting the next day (Sept. 14). If an emergency is declared, that gives the Governor the ability to appoint a conservator who will run JPS instead of the board and superintendent.

Is it a forgone conclusion?

I hope not.

It's hard to be positive, however. After all, MDE spent 18 months total and lots of money doing audits. MDE just slid across the table a 700 page report. It's pretty difficult to respond to something that long in just two weeks.

What's the end game? I'm still pondering that.

Everyone's stated goal is of course to help kids and make JPS a better school system.

There are a LOT of conspiracy theories going around. Pragmatically, I don't see where MDE has the manpower or financial resources to effectively take over a system as big as JPS. A lot of the audit focuses on lack of teachers. What is MDE going to do to make a change? We're in the middle of a major, statewide shortage of licensed teachers. Likewise, the audit focuses greatly also on facilities issues. Is MDE going to fund repairs? I think MDE wants to criticize JPS but I don't see MDE really wanting to take ownership of the whale that is JPS.

But, then again, people's eyes are often bigger than their stomachs. Plus, you don't spend money and unload a report as long as the MDE audit without being committed to making some actions happen.

The other "end game" that people are talking about a lot is "MDE wants to take over JPS and give free reign to Charters."

That theory is intriguing.

Honestly, I've been really surprised by the roll out of Charters in Mississippi. I think the pro-Charter crowd thought the state's charter law would be passed and a ton of charters would open and we'd be on our way. Instead, the number of applicants for opening schools has been lower than many expected and the Charter authorization board has been pretty selective (credit where credit is due). So far, it's been a trickle rather than a flood.

There are people saying that taking over JPS could be a way for the state to make Jackson a Charter school petri dish.

I don't know if the Charter angle is true. For one, I don't know whether a conservatorship would change the charter authorization procedure or speed them opening. Also, I don't know if the Charter school folks are sufficiently interested in Jackson to make a truly transformative push into Jackson even if a conservatorship does lower barriers and open a spigot. Those are questions I'm trying to get answered.

The only thing I know for certain is that taking over JPS turns JPS for Gov. Bryant and the state GOP from a "your problem, Jackson" to an "our problem." Maybe JPS is something the state really wants to take ownership of but I've got my doubts. That's not an optimistic view, I'll admit.

In the meantime, I'm going to try to get answers to the questions I've raised above. We're also rallying the troops to help JPS leaders form the best possible response to the audit and allegations contained therein in advance of the meeting on Sept. 13.

Lastly, and most importantly, if you haven't read the audit, please read it. It's long but a lot of it is charts and tables. Some of it is nit picky and overblown but there are many, many findings that are true and must be dealt with ASAP. We shouldn't clap our hands over our ears. In some respects, this audit may actually be a gift if it finally empowers us to fix these problem (albeit a gift of the borne by Greeks variety).

Kingfish note: Notice how the good councilman hasn't discussed the actual findings.  The findings are no surprise if someone read the audit from a year ago.  Beaten kids.  Teachers who wouldn't show up for work.  Kids graduating despite their not meeting the graduation requirements.  Buses that can't seem to run on time.  Little discipline in schools as teachers and kids play around on smartphones during class. "School Resource Officers" that weren't trained but the District refuses to use JPD for law enforcement problems.   The audits cited numerous problems before they even got to the ones that involve spending more money. 

While these Jackson politicians wail and gnash their teeth (although none of them have given up their suits for ashes and sackcloths) over the possibility of a JPS takeover, one must ask why they have not once tried to hold JPS accountable over the years?   The children of Jackson, yea, Jackson itself, will benefit if the problems discovered by MDE are fixed.  More AP teachers in the classrooms? Oh, can't have that.  Safe schools? That would be a disaster.  Buses bringing kids to school and teachers showing up on time? Damn, we need to riot if that happens.  Stop wasting money? Oh hell no, pockets won't get lined.  What's going to happen if people such as Jayne Sergeant can't give sweetheard deals to their kids? Chaos. 

One might take the politicians seriously if they had actually stood up for the kids over the years instead of the suits.  That includes you, legislators.   Make no mistake, Jackson needs JPS to succeed.  People will continue to leave Jackson if Jackson can't provide quality schools.  Jackson's leaders have ignored JPS's problems for far too long while burying their heads in the sand.  They've buried them so deeply that one one wonders if they can recognize reality when they are finally pulled out of the sand. 

Now having criticized Mr. Priester, JJ must commend him for actually writing this post.  It would be nice if other City Councilmen and the Councilwoman would regularly give us updates.  That is one of the benefits of social media. 

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

BabyChok should have appointed the retired Lt Col to be the Superintendent of JPS. I promise the absenteeism and behavioral issues would be addressed.

Anonymous said...

I taught in JPE - for one year, and that was enough for me. Taught a technology class. Yes, I had a sufficient number of computers in my lab, but only half of them were operational. Of those, only half had correct or working software. I had a TOTAL of 11 textbooks - not enough to cover even my smallest class. The person responsible for tech education came into my classroom sometime after Christmas break, and told me she did not even know there was a new tech teacher at the school. No working email until 3-4 months into the academic year. The principal came out of her office only to wadle to the lunchroom.

I worked with some dedicated, hard-working teachers, but when you don't have the resources or leadership...

Take it over? Should have happened long ago.

Anonymous said...

It would be nice if other City Councilmen and the Councilwoman would regularly give us updates.

Actually......there are some Council members we really don't want to hear from...

Anonymous said...

The lack of leadership at JPS has been and continues to be absolutely astounding. The last Superintendent, Dr Gray was more of a preacher and cheerleader but he did very little to correct problems. You need a hard-ass reformer who is going to kick ass and take names and who is going to get in there and shake things and people up and make the hard decisions and necessary changes. The interim JPS Superintendent Dr Murray is hesitant and flummoxed and is prone to excuses more than answers. The school board has been wholely ineffective, seeming unconcerned, tentative, and lackadaisical. The JPS ship is sinking fast and we need all hands on deck and the command staff to take firm control. If not, this ship will be boarded and a new commander will take the helm. While that may be bad, everyone must remember that the ultimate goal is the educate the kids and have a great school system. In other words, the goal save the ship, regardless of who is conning it.

1962guy said...

An absolute "firewall" must be constructed between JPS and the City of Jackson. No contact, or meddling by either side.

JPS must be completely reorganized under a "safety first" mandate. All problem students and teachers removed. Complete control by the state, indefinitely.

This can be done and could become a model for all other public schools to follow. BUT, ALL CURRENT PERSONNEL MUST GO! Only exceptions are facilities maintenance.

Close the schools for 1 year, reorganize and start from scratch. Let the cream rise to the top.


Anonymous said...

Rotten administrators + rotten students = rotten school system.

No conservator on earth is going to change that grim reality. I'm with Priester - no takeover. Let's just cut funding to the mandatory minimum and let them keep the whole crappy system.

Anonymous said...

"Close the schools for 1 year, reorganize and start from scratch. Let the cream rise to the top."

Surely that was a typo, 11:33 am. Otherwise, where are these students supposed to go for a year? Madison? Hinds County? Clinton? Pearl? There is no room at any of these schools, and none of them want JPS students anyway, so you might want to rethink that approach.

Anonymous said...

As predicted JPS took the proceeds of the $150 MILLION bond issue the voters granted them, pissed through the money without a real plan (but the bond pimps cleaned up!) and now, less than a decade later, JPS stands in nearly the same spot claiming they can't maintain their broken down facilities.

Anonymous said...

The interim superintendent is one of the dumbest looking I have ever seen. It starts with the tone at the top, and optics matter.

Anonymous said...

JPS is going to remain the same as long as the administration stays the same. JPS providing jobs to people who have no business being connected to a school unless it is as a student. Too much money being thrown at the problem and landing in the pocket of the people who caused the problem in the beginning.

The only chance is a state takeover. Even that will be a gamble as the people who will be taking it over are the same as the people running it already.

Anonymous said...

Year ago when initial audit came out Ladd was commenting online that she hasn't seen any of the issues noted in the JPS schools she'd visited.

Her white conspiracy addled self is probably still in denial.

Anonymous said...

Here's a suggestion..........the JPS stakeholders, including MDE, need to watch the 1989 movie "Lean on Me" starring Morgan Freeman, and then they need to find a leader of the same mold as Freeman's character in the movie. That approach is the only thing that will ultimately fix JPS' problems. As others have stated, it starts at the top, and only until they find the right leader, will things improve. That's a pretty good movie for those of you who have never seen it. It's hard to believe that it's almost 30 years old.

Anonymous said...

Having taken over other districts for far less I've long contended and commented here that MDE doesn't really want to take over JPS primarily because of its size. The situation may now be so dire that they can't responsibility avoid the enormous task any longer.

Priester's alluding that JPS lacks teachers because of "a major, statewide shortage of licensed teachers" is intellectually dishonest at its core. Yes, there is a shortage but the JPS working environment for teachers exacerbates the shortfall exponentially beyond any contributory effect of the shortage itself.

Anonymous said...

Blaming a "teacher shortage" for JPS's problems is like asking for volunteers to storm a fortified enemy machine gun nest barehanded, getting none, and blaming it on a "troop shortage."

Anonymous said...

Would love to hear Mr. Priester's thoughts on this summary, word for word from the audit. These are the children of this city we are talking about. My word, what have we let this come to?

On numerous occasions, MDE staff entered District buildings from unlocked alternate doors. MDE staff entered the buildings without any visible
nametag or identification on many occasions to determine whether they would be confronted. MDE staff walked around the campus for extended
periods of time, including through the halls, around buildings, and into bathrooms, without question from any school personnel. Staff from MDE
observed students roaming the hallways during instructional time and observed students watching videos on their cell phones or engaging in “horseplay” during instructional time. MDE staff also observed classrooms without teachers and both students and teachers entering the school building over an hour after the first bell. This created an unsafe environment due to the lack of supervision. Additionally, MDE staff observed numerous dress code violations in several buildings. MDE staff frequently observed gang signs, foul language, and behaviors that were in violation of the District’s Code of Conduct in the classrooms and hallways. In the student parking lots, MDE staff observed students in or around the vehicles smoking and playing loud music from the vehicles’ radios and driving dangerously in the student parking lots.

The metal detectors and procedures in place are ineffective in their ability to identify weapons coming into the buildings. For example, an MDE staff
member observed the metal detector failing to sound when an off-duty SRO with a weapon walked through the detector. Conversely, this same metal
detector kept sounding as students entered the building for the entire time the MDE staff member stood at the front door. The District failed to stop the students and/or search the students before they entered the building. Over the past several months, the MDE observed and repeatedly reported this type of incident, to the District.

Anonymous said...

I'll hand it to Priester, although I don't agree with him hardly ever. However, he doesn't wait for the dust to settle to speak his mind like the other council members.

No one else on the city council seems to be near as articulate or engaged.

Anonymous said...

Priester attended St. Andrews school as well as Stanford and Harvard... he's hardly an expert on failing schools.

Anonymous said...

Memphis needed 257 teachers the week school started. How many is JPS short?

Anonymous said...

At least Melvin can write with correct spelling. This is a distinct improvement over some of the city council members.

Anonymous said...

Councilman Priester's comments were very thoughtful in my opinion. I especially liked that he said " I don't know" but makes it clear he is weighing information he has and trying to be sure he has all the available facts.

KF, I do not take issue with the failure to outline the problems you stated. I think he assumed the reasons for the audit were known. I appreciate that his mindset is " how do we get the best solution given the realities".

Unfortunately, those realities include recognition of individual political agendas and biases...including yours and those who have already commented.

I appreciate that Mr. Priester recognizes the reality that no one can fire every employee of JPS to solve these problems and that you will need their cooperation going forward. Continuing to beat them up over the system failures is not conducive to getting change.

You well know that the manpower to replace everyone in JPS doesn't exist . You , also, know there are those in the JPS system who want it to succeed and are even more frustrated than the public.

Mr. Priester is obviously someone focused on problem solving instead of being forever stuck in problem identification and casting blame.

It's past time for everyone to try to be as objective and well informed as Mr. Priester is trying to be.

Anonymous said...

Where was Priester in the past? If he was focused on problem solving why did it get so bad and what has he done to correct the problems?

Anonymous said...

State take over.

Make smaller districts and divide Jackson schools into surrounding counties.

Make their racial % commensurate with state %.

Build new schools in 4 county area over next 10 years.

If we work together and push one another we can bridge most of what divides us.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Priester is obviously someone focused on problem solving instead of being forever stuck in problem identification and casting blame.

It's past time for everyone to try to be as objective and well informed as Mr. Priester is trying to be. September 9, 2017 at 8:47 AM"

Thanks, Melvin. Hang tough, man.

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Trollfest '09

Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

Wrestling returns, except this time it will be a Battle Royal with Othor Cain, Ben Allen, Kim Wade, Haley Fisackerly, Alan Lange, and “Big Cat” Donna Ladd all in the ring at the same time. The Battle Royal will be in a steel cage, no time limit, no referee, and the losers must leave town. Marshand Crisler will be the honorary referee (as it gives him a title without actually having to do anything).


Meet KIM Waaaaaade at the Entergy Tent. For five pesos, Kim will sell you a chance to win a deed to a crack house on Ridgeway Street stuffed in the Howard Industries pinata. Don't worry if the pinata is beaten to shreds, as Mr. Wade has Jose, Emmanuel, and Carlos, all illegal immigrants, available as replacements for the it. Upon leaving the Entergy tent, fig leaves will be available in case Entergy literally takes everything you have as part of its Trollfest ticket price adjustment charge.

Donna Ladd of The Jackson Free Press will give several classes on learning how to write. Smearing, writing without factchecking, and reporting only one side of a story will be covered. A donation to pay their taxes will be accepted and she will be signing copies of their former federal tax liens. Ms. Ladd will give a dramatic reading of her two award-winning essays (They received The Jackson Free Press "Best Of" awards.) "Why everything is always about me" and "Why I cover murders better than anyone else in Jackson".

In the spirit of helping those who are less fortunate, Trollfest '09 adopts a cause for which a portion of the proceeds and donations will be donated: Keeping Frank Melton in his home. The “Keep Frank Melton From Being Homeless” booth will sell chances for five dollars to pin the tail on the jackass. John Reeves has graciously volunteered to be the jackass for this honorable excursion into saving Frank's ass. What's an ass between two friends after all? If Mr. Reeves is unable to um, perform, Speaker Billy McCoy has also volunteered as when the word “jackass” was mentioned he immediately ran as fast as he could to sign up.


In order to help clean up the legal profession, Adam Kilgore of the Mississippi Bar will be giving away free, round-trip plane tickets to the North Pole where they keep their bar complaint forms (which are NOT available online). If you don't want to go to the North Pole, you can enjoy Brant Brantley's (of the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance) free guided tours of the quicksand field over by High Street where all complaints against judges disappear. If for some reason you are unable to control yourself, never fear; Judge Houston Patton will operate his jail where no lawyers are needed or allowed as you just sit there for minutes... hours.... months...years until he decides he is tired of you sitting in his jail. Do not think Judge Patton is a bad judge however as he plans to serve free Mad Dog 20/20 to all inmates.

Trollfest '09 is a pet-friendly event as well. Feel free to bring your dog with you and do not worry if your pet gets hungry, as employees of the Jackson Zoo will be on hand to provide some of their animals as food when it gets to be feeding time for your little loved one.

Relax at the Fox News Tent. Since there are only three blonde reporters in Jackson (being blonde is a requirement for working at Fox News), Megan and Kathryn from WAPT and Wendy from WLBT will be on loan to Fox. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both and a torn-up Obama yard sign will entitle you to free drinks served by Megan, Wendy, and Kathryn. Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required. Just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '09 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.


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Jackson Jambalaya is the home of Trollfest '07. Catch this great event which promises to leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Sonjay Poontang and his band headline the night with a special steel cage, no time limit "loser must leave town" bout between Alan Lange and "Big Cat"Donna Ladd following afterwards. Kamikaze will perform his new song F*** Bush, he's still a _____. Did I mention there was no referee? Dr. Heddy Matthias and Lori Gregory will face off in the undercard dueling with dangling participles and other um, devices. Robbie Bell will perform Her two latest songs: My Best Friends are in the Media and Mama's, Don't Let Your Babies Grow up to be George Bell. Sid Salter of The Clarion-Ledger will host "Pin the Tail on the Trial Lawyer", sponsored by State Farm.

There will be a hugging booth where in exchange for your young son, Frank Melton will give you a loooong hug. Trollfest will have a dunking booth where Muhammed the terrorist will curse you to Allah as you try to hit a target that will drop him into a vat of pig grease. However, in the true spirit of Separate But Equal, Don Imus and someone from NE Jackson will also sit in the dunking booth for an equal amount of time. Tom Head will give a reading for two hours on why he can't figure out who the hell he is. Cliff Cargill will give lessons with his .80 caliber desert eagle, using Frank Melton photos as targets. Tackleberry will be on hand for an autograph session. KIM Waaaaaade will be passing out free titles and deeds to crackhouses formerly owned by The Wood Street Players.

If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

This is definitely a Beaver production.

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