JACKSON, Miss., July 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- After more than 18 months of community engagement, visioning, research and planning, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba, the Jackson Public School District (JPS) and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) celebrated the completion of a historic effort to support the school district in transforming the educational system in Jackson, Mississippi. The official release of JPS's five-year strategic plan marks the completion of the work of the Better Together Commission and the fulfillment of its objectives supporting "quality education for all children" in JPS.
In late 2017, this group of partners identified an unprecedented pathway to support transformative change for the state's second-largest school district with a goal of ensuring every JPS student receives a high-quality education. One of the first steps was appointing 15 community leaders to the Better Together Commission—an independent group of citizens who led and guided the overall efforts to understand residents' hopes, aspirations and ideas for supporting transformation throughout JPS. Leaders from the education, business, healthcare, nonprofit and philanthropic sectors worked together to facilitate meaningful conversations and in-depth research. These efforts all aimed to identify concrete, long-term solutions to improve educational outcomes in the district.
"I am grateful for the individuals serving on the Better Together Commission and their accomplishments in helping identify qualified leadership and commissioning an assessment of the Jackson Public School District," said Governor Bryant. "The dedicated work of the commission has culminated in a five-year strategic plan that will help achieve sustainable change and improved outcomes for children."
Thousands of Jackson residents engaged in community events held across the city, including listening sessions in each of the city's seven wards, two youth summits, a series of stakeholder meetings, a family literacy event at the Jackson Zoo, a telephone poll and a community-wide canvassing effort. Through these activities, residents expressed their desire to support long-term efforts that will increase access to early childhood education, improve parent engagement and enhance the overall quality of learning environments throughout the district. They also shared a firm belief that teachers are one of the greatest strengths of the school district.
"I am tremendously proud of the work of the Better Together Commission. Out of what was one of the greatest challenges that our school district has ever faced, we were able to demonstrate operational unity, bring people together across various lines of political ideology and affiliations in order to work for the benefit of our children," Lumumba said. "We all agree that we have an opportunity for a transformational school district and that Jackson needs to be the light of intellectual capital for our state and country. The citizens also have played the most critical role in this endeavor because we know that while we can bring in individuals with an understanding of policy and curriculum, that none of this would be successful without the buy in from our parents and our children."
In addition, the commission worked with Insight Education Group to conduct a student-centered study of the district. This research emphasized the need to leverage the current strength of the district by establishing clear, rigorous expectations for district staff, supporting the consistent delivery of standards-based instruction in the classroom and increasing the capacity of teachers.
"Community engagement is essential to creating lasting change on behalf of children," said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "The combination of community voices and the Better Together Commission's cross-sector partnership is opening a new pathway for Jackson's children, their families and the entire community."
JPS' strategic action plan details the district's overarching commitments over the next five years, which were informed by the research and community engagement activities conducted throughout the process. For example, the district has committed to expanding the number of pre-kindergarten seats for 4-year-old students and partnering with other early learning providers to ensure all children are exposed to positive learning experiences that will prepare them for success in school and life at an early age. Additionally, the district announced its plan to create a teaching and learning professional development center and a high school teacher preparatory academy, which are clear investments in what many residents believe to be the district's greatest strength: its teachers.
"We're excited to launch the strategic plan and to engage with the broader Jackson community around the commitments we're making to the children and families we serve," said Dr. Errick L. Greene, superintendent of Jackson Public Schools. "Because of the deep engagement with a wide range of stakeholder groups during the planning process, we're confident that this plan represents our collective understanding of the challenges and opportunities in educating our scholars. The release of this plan is a critical step in driving our district toward the vision and moral imperative of excellence for all."
Now that the work of the Better Together Commission has concluded, JPS will begin implementing parts of the strategic plan to ensure every student in Jackson has an opportunity for a high-quality education. The plan can be accessed on the district website at www.jackson.k12.ms.us/StrategicPlan.
SOURCE W.K. Kellogg Foundation