JACKSON-MILTON Superintendent backs new school

Officials are looking into the possibility of shortening the elementary school day by 20 minutes.
NORTH JACKSON -- Jackson-Milton's schools superintendent believes steps the board of education is taking toward construction of a new school will help improve the district's performance on state report cards.
The board took another necessary step Wednesday toward placing an approximately 10.2-mill 27-year bond issue on the ballot in May for a new building to house prekindergarten through 12th grade.
Superintendent Buck Palmer said the county auditor will certify the exact number of mills it will take to pay the $21.5 million needed to construct the facility.
Blames building: Palmer placed some of the blame for Jackson-Milton's poor fourth-through-sixth-grade report card scores on the poor condition of the district's elementary school.
"We are especially concerned about our fourth- and sixth-grade scores," Palmer said. "We are really disappointed because the staff has been working really hard and has spent a lot of time working with test formation, construction of tests and proficiency outcome areas. ... So, we are afraid that some of it has to do with our facilities."
Overcrowding is a problem and adequate space for learning is a problem, he explained. Noise and visual stimulation adds to the problem. "People are just too close together to have adequate learning space," he said.
Officials also are looking into the possibility of shortening the length of the elementary school day by 20 minutes.
"We have the longest [elementary] school day in the in the county. We thought in the past that was a good thing, but we are starting to think it's too much of a good thing," Palmer said. "We are losing our kids because we are expecting them to stay on-task and stay seated in an academic pursuit, and physically, they just can't do it."
Seniors' scheme: With regard to the 12th-grade test scores, Palmer said a senior told the board in a meeting last spring that the seniors banded together to perform badly in order to give the district a black eye. Palmer said the seniors were upset about an eight-day teachers strike in the Jackson-Milton schools at the beginning of the last academic year.
"They viewed the strike as a great hardship on their senior year," Palmer said. "They made a pact among themselves to deliberately do poorly."
They knew it was going to be a reflection on the board, teachers and administration. But overall, Palmer said he was very disappointed in the test scores, and the school would be examining the situation to try to improve them.
The school board named Dave Snowden as president and appointed Sue Karash as vice president.

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