The DeSoto County School District Board of Education is moving forward on new board policies that put in writing qualifications for being the superintendent of the state’s largest school district, administrative hiring, graduation requirements and notifying the public about when regular board meetings and special meetings are held.
The board policies were part of Thursday afternoon’s regular session of the board at the Central Services building in Hernando.
Members heard the first reading of a new board policy that indicates what must be required to be a superintendent, if filling a vacancy would be required. The policy is needed as part of a changeover from an elected district leader to an appointed one, a change that will occur when current Supt. Cory Uselton’s term expires.
If the office became vacant, board members would need to select someone who met qualifications, including someone with a valid administrator’s license issued by the state, and has had no less than six years experience in the classroom or in a school administrative role, including no less than three years as a school principal.
The person selected must also have been part of a school that carried an “A” or “B” accountability rating, or a school showing an increase by one accountability letter grade, or part of a school in another state meeting the same criteria by the Mississippi State Department of Education.
Assistant Supt. Jennifer Weeks, who presented the policy to the school board, said it basically mimics what has been passed by the state Legislature.
“They passed specific guidelines for who qualifies to be a superintendent,” said Weeks. “The only other provision is if you have been a superintendent or assistant superintendent within the last five years. Since we now will be appointing superintendents, we needed to specify the qualifications for appointing them.”
If enacted, the policy would automatically be rescinded next Jan. 1 and is basically a stopgap measure between now and the time Uselton’s current term expires if the school board is required to make an appointment.
Another policy that was heard for the first time Thursday involved the hiring of administrative personnel.
“These are procedures that we have had in place," Weeks said. “It was just recommended by the Mississippi School Boards Association that we have a policy in place that outlines those procedures.”
Second readings and passage of these policies are expected at the next school board meeting, scheduled for Jan. 18 at 3 p.m. in the district board room.
DCS board members did move forward and approve policies that spell out details for the time and place of board meetings, administrative personnel hirings and what will become new graduation requirements.
While the dates and times of meetings have been displayed on the front door of the district Central Services building, as the law requires, that information is now also to be made available by way of the school district’s website, www.desotocountyschools.org.
One hour after a regular meeting or special meeting is called, the notice of that meeting must be posted on the district website and at the district offices where meetings are held.
In addition, if a meeting is held with use of teleconferencing or videoconferencing to have all members available, those sessions must be held at the same location all of the time.
“There was a change in the legislation that if you teleconference or video your meetings, you must do it in the same location,” Weeks said. “You cannot hop around having board meetings in different locations and moving equipment. You must have the meetings at the same location that your equipment is located.”
Weeks said the changes in graduation requirements are actually a revised board policy and will initially impact students who enter high school as freshmen next school year and again reflect new state requirements.
“The Mississippi Department of Education recently adopted new graduation requirements,” said Weeks. “The Mississippi Occupational Diploma for special needs students is no longer available to students entering the 2018-19 school year as freshmen. The Career Pathway option is no longer available to sophomores following this school year.”
The detailed list for new freshmen will require a traditional diploma of 24 credits, but students may now also declare one of three additional endorsements, a career-technical endorsement, an academic endorsement or a distinguished academic endorsement. Each of these endorsements require more credits and a higher GPA.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.