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Oxford School District Achievement Gap Controversy: Leaders Weigh In, Special Called Meeting Today at Noon

An article in The Oxford Charger, Oxford High School’s newspaper linked here and pictured below, created a flame of controversy in the Oxford community around the District’s desire to find a solution to closing the “achievement gap.”

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The achievement gap, generally speaking, is the disparity in academic performance between groups of students correlating with socioeconomic status.

Parents of Oxford School District (OSD) students spoke out after an article was published on Thursday, Sept. 29.

One parent, Jackie Certion, who said “[My family is] invested in this school system, we are invested in this community,” is an alumnus of Oxford High School, her husband is an alumnus, and one of her children graduated in 2015 while the other will graduate in 2020.

Certion: “I am so infuriated because I can not believe that this would even be considered an option. To me, you’re thinking more about the school ratings. You’re thinking more about the fact that the test scores will go up, but are you thinking about the students? My son called from school because, as a 15-year-old, only thing he knows is ‘I have money in my lunch account. I can eat.’ He calls me really upset wanting to know if he gets free or reduced lunch. These are things that they should not have to worry about. In the climate of this country, where there is such a racial divide, I need the Oxford School District school board and I need Brian Harvey, who happens to be my classmate, I need them to look at this in a different way. He is appointed. He is not elected, but those that are elected are those five school board members, and I need them to be better stewards over the responsibilities. I’m entrusting them to have the best interest, not only of my child, but of every child in this district.”

HottyToddy.com met with Superintendent Brian Harvey to get his perspective.

HottyToddy.com: Are you considering starting a lower-income school?

Brian Harvey: No, that’s where this has gotten blown out of proportion. We are looking at several options, and we’re still investigating options. Where this started is, and let me say for the record, we are not building a separate school or starting a school for free-and-reduced or low-income students. That’s not what we’re doing. This started out of a presentation from the Urban Learning and Leadership Center. They gave a presentation in Jackson last spring, which I heard and was impressed by and realize that we need to do something. It was a call-to-action for me as a superintendent. We’ve got to address this. And so, with that, we started investigating some different options. Their model, their SAME, Social Academic Moral Education, model is one option. And that grew out of the Newport News public schools in Virginia where they have a school like this. But they have several models, and it was just one group who made a presentation. Myself, the high school principal and our assistant superintendent curriculum coordinator visited another school last week for another program. We’re in the process of investigating how can we… what measures can we put in place to strategically address the achievement gap that we have. And, that’s really what this is about. No decision has been made. No recommendation has been made. We’re still in the investigatory time. Anytime you start what I hope is going to be some kind of district-wide option or combination of options, there’s a financial cost to that; so, you have to plan for that. This is not something that we’re going to implement in November, this is going to take some planning. It’s going to take some community discussion.

HottyToddy.com: The public seems to think you are strongly considering a new school, and that it’s almost as a form of segregation. What’s your response?

img_2045Brian Harvey: I think that’s so far ahead of where we are in the process. To go to that stretch is really too far. We’re not there yet. As I’ve been thinking through this, I don’t even know that it’s legal. We’re not there yet. We’re investigating ways to close the achievement gap to get more kids ready for college and their career after college. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to better the lives of our students. And in order to do that, we’ve got to do a better job of preparing all of them all along because there is an income achievement gap. That does exist. And it’s been well documented. And students who fall into that category start school behind, so we’re trying to find ways strategically how we can improve those academics.

 

The Board of Trustees of the Oxford School District will meet at noon today to consider a response.screen-shot-2016-09-30-at-9-49-16-am

House Representative Jay Hughes, Oxford, made the statement below regarding the perceived miscommunication this morning.

Superintendent Harvey addressed the crowd gathered at Oxford Middle School last night in this series of videos on the Charger Online Twitter account:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson said, “We support the School District. Oxford has a good school system. Because you are poor does not mean you are dumb by any means. That is not the message that was intended. We are all going to work through finding a solution together, and our students and school district will be better off for it.”


HottyToddy.com Staff Report. For questions or comments, email hottytoddynews@gmail.com.

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