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GUEST VIEW: Meridian schools focus on reading, leadership, technology, pride

The Meridian Star invited some community leaders to write about their top three priorities for 2019. Today’s column is from Amy Carter, Ph.D., superintendent of Meridian Public School District.

As I approach the halfway point of my third year as superintendent of the Meridian Public School District, I know we have accomplished some of our goals, but realize we have more work to do. At the beginning of the year, I challenged everyone in the district with one simple phrase, “Excellence Begins With Me.” For us, that means that everyone from administrators, teachers, support staff, students, parents and community members must all work together to help make Meridian a place where learners become leaders. I believe that in order for us to continue creating a culture of excellence, we need to focus on these priorities:

• Focusing a Love for Reading While Developing Leadership in Our Students.

• Continuing to be on the Cutting Edge of Technology.

• Rediscovering MPSD/MHS Pride.

For 2019, the school district will continue to focus on fostering a love of reading. We believe that literacy is the foundation for learning and we are continuing to make sure students district-wide are put in encouraging and nurturing environments that promote a love of reading. It’s not uncommon for administrators and other school staff to stop a student in the hallway to quiz them on the Fry Word Lists. Each elementary and middle school also participates in Accelerated Reader (AR), which awards students with points for reading books and showing what they learned from the books they read. The program also helps students with vocabulary, comprehension and being able to identify the central theme and idea of the book they are reading. We continue to look for ways to encourage students to read across the grade levels in each classroom in each of our schools.

Making sure our students have every opportunity to develop into leaders is crucial, not only for their success, but the community’s as well. We are excited to partner with the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, by implementing the “Leader In Me” in the Meridian Public School District. “Leader in Me” is an evidence-based comprehensive school improvement model that empowers students with the leadership and life-skills they need to thrive in the 21st century. With this initiative, our students will learn life-readiness skills such as critical thinking, self discipline, time management, communication, relationship building, goal achievement, and problem solving. Skills that are essential to preparing them for success in school and in the workplace upon graduation.

Our students are fortunate enough to live in a time when technology is literally with us at all times. That is why continuing to expand and integrate technology into every aspect of the way students learn is so important. We have recently expanded our One-to-One initiative with Chromebooks to students in third and fourth grades. Those students who are in elementary and middle schools have access to Chromebooks while at school and all 9th-12th graders are able to take Chromebooks home with them. Another area of technology that we are excited about is the integration of interactive panels in every fifth-twelfth grade science and math classroom. This technology gives our educators the ability to create interactive lessons and encourage hands-on learning while exploring standards.

MPSD has always been a beacon of excellence in our community and we want to help our community rediscover their Wildcat pride. This is another goal for us this year. One way I’d like to do this is by celebrating the teachers and staff who are part of our “MPSD Family.” We have teachers who are new to our family and we have teachers who have been a part of us for 25 plus years. What a legacy to the teaching profession and to the excellence within MPSD! When I look at the community of Meridian, I know that it to is very supportive of our students and wants to see them succeed. As examples of success, I would like to be able to recognize alumni who are making a difference in our city, state, and country. This would give our students real examples of Wildcats who are doing great things. Imagine the impact fellow Wildcats could have on one another!

By focusing on these priorities as well as making sure all of our schools become successful, we can’t wait to see the progress and growth that our district will make in 2019.