Petal School District hears annual reports

By HASKEL BURNS,

Officials from three organizations in the Petal School District gave their annual reports to the school district’s board of trustees during a recent board meeting. The reports – which were delivered by Petal Middle School Principal Michael Hogan, Petal High School Principal Rob Knight and Director of Special Services Katie Charleville – outline such issues as attendance, new procedures and testing scores and updates.

 

Petal Middle School

Hogan began his report with the school’s attendance rate, which is currently 94.75 percent for students and 95 percent for teachers.

“We do have a good group of kids that are having some medical waivers and some issues we’re having to deal with, and they’re missing a good number of days,” he said. “We’re trying to get them back in to make up work and get instruction, so we are working on that.”

In terms of accountability scores, the school’s goal for this year is 505, up from last year’s score of 504.

“We have started talking with our kids and challenging them about reaching their goal that they’ve talked about in the classroom,” Hogan said. “But also, when they meet their growth goal, they also help us meet the school goal as well, so we’re excited about that.

“That (505) is going to be a tough number to get, but we are challenging our students and our teachers on that.”

The school’s mean score on the Preliminary SAT – which is a practice version of the SAT exam – was 993 this school year, 84 points higher than the state’s mean score of 909.

“I will also say that they were actually higher than the benchmark that PSAT sets,” Hogan said. “We had roughly around 91 percent of our kids that met their math and their language benchmark from the PSAT.”

 

Petal High School

Officials are working on some new measures to reduce absenteeism at the high school, including sending a postcard to student’s homes which shows that student’s absence percentage alongside the average student’s attendance at the school.

“A lot of parents think their kid is just like every other kid, and that’s not the case,” Knight said. “So when they see that their kid’s only been in school 80 percent of the day, but the average is 95 percent – we feel like that’s been a game changer.”

As far as chronic absenteeism – defined as a student missing more than 18 days in one school year – 18 percent of the high school’s students fell under that category in the 2016-17 school year. Last year, that number fell to 12.6 percent, and is currently right at 12 percent.

“What I’m really proud of, is the state’s went up at that time,” Knight said. “To put that in perspective, the high school average around Mississippi was 25.56 percent.”

 

Special Services

The number of special education students in the school district recently increased from 709 to 742, or about 18 percent of the district’s population.

“I’ve been in several parent meetings over the year, and many parents of students that have moved in have said, ‘We came to Petal because our children were struggling, and we knew being in a top district, you would help our kids,’” Charleville said. “So that says a lot, that they’re coming here because they know that we’re going to help their children.”

Because of that increase in students, the district added a resource teacher in January at Petal Upper Elementary School.

“Our resource class is for children that need a little bit more intensive help than being in the regular education classroom, so we needed to add that,” Charleville said. “So I thank (the school board) and (Superintendent Matt) Dillon for approving that and making sure we were able to meet those needs.”

Special education officials have completed approximately 284 special education evaluations this year. The evaluations include students who currently have an eligibility and are due for a three-year re-evaluation, in addition to new evaluations.

“So I would say that we are meeting our obligations and identifying any children within the district that are in need of special education services,” Charleville said.