By LaBetha Casey
Quality of teachers, loss of teachers and questions about the qualification of teachers at Mansfield Elementary School were aired before the DeSoto Parish School Board last Thursday. Those concerns were answered by Superintendent Clay Corley.
Demetris Drain of the NAACP-DeSoto Parish Chapter, spoke about concerns of school performance and employee retention issues at Mansfield Elementary School. She stated that MES has been losing faculty members, having lost 32 staff within the year. These faculty members have been replaced by teachers who are not certified to teach or by long-term substitute teachers. Drain faults the school board members for these issues and stated that a letter would be forthcoming to demand a response to these issues by December 1, 2022.
Superintendent Clay Corley addressed some of the concerns given by Drain. He cited the Louisiana revised statute that states that it is unlawful for school board members to be involved in the hiring or firing process of teachers. Corley commented that 3rd graders across the nation, not only at MES, lost fundamental skills due to the circumstances of schooling during the COVID virtual learning period. Regarding teacher retention, Corley stated that MES has actually retained 5% more of faculty/staff this past year than years prior and has had a 5% gain in the hiring of African Americans.
In other matters that came before the school board, Josh Salley, LSU Ag Center Assistant Extension Agent shared information regarding the parish extension program. Funding for this office is provided by the DeSoto Parish Police Jury and the DeSoto Parish School Board. Their office provides agricultural research and education for local farmers or other interested parties.
Salley said there are more than 300 students in the 4-H clubs which meet in schools across the parish. Among several programs given this past year for the public was providing pressure canner testing for food safety. One current program is a monthly sewing class for 4-H students which is being taught by volunteer, Nicole Tull.
An update for strategic initiatives was given by Ms. Worlita Jackson which is being piloted at the Mansfield schools. Of the five components that are being addressed, three of them have been implemented already. These include: 1. counseling, psychological and social services, 2. family engagement and 3. community involvement. The remaining two components include school culture and teacher wellness. Jackson stated that school wellness counselors are in place in every school across the parish. As a part of this program, a prayer vigil has been scheduled at City Hall on October 18 with regards to Bully Prevention.