Executive Director Notes
Quick update on MSF over the past month

Charter Schools
Application released and other news

Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART Initiative)
Updates from the field

State-funded preK implementation

School Turnaround
MSF launches Choose Excellence Campaign

Other Education News
MSF College Chapter, MSF & LEE House Meetings, MS Scorecards


  • New Hire at MSF: MSF has hired Angela Bass as our new Deputy Director of Policy. We are very excited to welcome back Angela to the team. Angela was our first MSF intern during the summer of 2009. She assisted in making our initial case for a state-funded pre-Kindergarten program. Now, she will help us with policy research and publications for our numerous education goals, including the implementation our Mississippi’s new state-funded pre-Kindergarten program.

  • Common Core: November has been a big month for Common Core in Mississippi. On November 8, MSF launched the Choose Excellence campaign at Choose Excellence is an initiative dedicated to providing resources and information about implementing Common Core State Standards in Mississippi schools. There are many ways you can become involved in the campaign–visit, sign up for the CommonCoreMS letter, pledge your support, and tell us your story about how Common Core has impacted your student’s education.

  • MSF Branding Project: Over the past few months, Mississippi First has been working with a branding consultant from Catchafire (Thanks, Aana!). Catchafire matches professionals in PR, fundraising, design, and strategy with nonprofits to assist with specific capacity-building projects. During this process, MSF created a unique brand platform by developing a new, proposed mission statement, motivation statement, and organizational tagline. Pending final Board approval, the new brand platform will officially roll out with the launch of the new MSF website! Stay posted on the details of that new upcoming project.

  • LEE Rural Summit: On November 9-10, the MSF team attended the LEE (Leadership for Educational Equality) Rural Summit that was hosted in Jackson at Millsaps College. Sanford and I sat on two different panels and discussed the development of the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013 and Mississippi First’s experience with community engagement. Thank you, LEE, for allowing us to be a part of the first LEE Rural Education Summit.



Public Comment on the Draft Application Released November 1

As you may recall from our last newsletter, the Charter School Authorizer Board released a draft version of the charter school application on November 1. Mississippi First was among the 4 organizations to submit comments about the application; 4 individuals also submitted comments. All of the submitted comments will become part of the Authorizer Board’s November minutes which will be approved at the next Board meeting. We will post a link to all of the comments in our December newsletter. In the meantime, you can read a copy of the comments that Rachel Canter made during the November meeting’s public comment portion here; Rachel’s verbal statement to the Board was intended to be a high-level summary of written comments submitted prior to the meeting. [Please note that it has come to our attention that there was an email going around which mischaracterized some of Rachel Canter’s comments. The document we have linked to is a copy of the document that Rachel used as she made her public statement before handing it  to the Board; it has only been edited for typos before being posted here.]

Application Package Released

The Charter School Application Package is out! At the November Charter School Authorizer Board meeting, the Board voted to allow the charter school application package to be released through the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). The application package was posted on November 23, 2013. Applicants will now have until March 14, 2014, to respond to the full application; a letter of intent is due on January 22, 2013. However, because APA is a formalized public comment process, it is possible that the application may change before the Board votes for final adoption at the close of the APA process. Although the Board has expressed that it does not believe any further changes will be substantial, this means that the application is not finalized. If a group of 10 people requests a public hearing on the application, the Board will not be able to approve the final application until mid-January.

Other Board News

The Board also announced that it had not yet secured a bank account through the Department of Finance and Administration, which means that it cannot yet accept donations or other funds despite public reports that a donation is pending from Jim Barksdale. We expect to hear at the December meeting that the bank account issue has been resolved.

The Board will officially open the search for an Executive Director and/or an interim consultant  to assist in the day-to-day operations of the Authorizer Board. The job descriptions and the application for these positions will be approved at the December meeting. The hiring of any person is contingent upon the Board having funds to pay for an employee or a contractor, making the issue of a bank account as discussed above extremely pressing.



At the beginning of November, Sanford attended the Silver Linings meeting, hosted by the Funders Network on Population Reproductive Rights and Health, in Carlsbad, California. The meeting was an opportunity for funders that work in reproductive health and rights to learn about sexual/reproductive health education and services in the US and abroad. Sanford was asked to sit on a panel discussion about advancing sex education through local/state/national coalitions. This invitation was extended after Mississippi was selected as the nation’s 10th WISE state in August. The primary goal of WISE is to integrate sexual health education within our public schools’ academic program.

Also this month, Sanford Johnson continued meeting with parents as part of the CHART Initiative. Sanford held a parent meeting in Coffeeville on the November 21 where he reviewed curriculum, connected with the teachers, and answered questions.

For more questions about the CHART Initiative, please contact Deputy Director Sanford Johnson at



State PreK RFP Update

The deadline for receipt of proposals for the preK collaborative awards was on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. MDE received several proposals from collaborative councils comprised of school districts, nonprofits, and Head Starts all over the state. A team of external reviewers read and scored the proposals. Top-scoring proposals are now finalists and are in the process of being interviewed by a team of MDE staff in early December. Notification of awards is scheduled to be made on December 19, 2013. The Early Collaborative Act of 2013 provides funding to local communities to establish, expand, and support successful early childhood education and development services. Mississippi First was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the Act.

Stay tuned to MSF for any additional announcements on the preK RFPs.



Common Core State Standards

We made great progress in November on the Choose Excellence campaign. The second week of November, MSF launched the CommonCoreMS website, which is a centralized virtual library of resources, information, and data about the Common Core State Standards for parents, teachers, and interested parties. The site is updated constantly to include new resources and information and will also be a place where upcoming events on Common Core in the state will be advertised. Two featured resources specific to the implementation of Common Core in Mississippi are the Frequently Asked Questions and Fact vs. Fiction documents. These two resources outline essential accurate information for Mississippians looking to find out more about Common Core in the state.

The Choose Excellence campaign has gone viral! If you are interested in showing your support for Common Core in Mississippi, join the Choose Excellence campaign. Grab a piece of paper, write  “I choose excellence! #msf #commoncorems,” hold the sign and take your picture, and then send it to

If you are interested in signing onto the Choose Excellence campaign to support Common Core in Mississippi, contact us at



University of Mississippi MSF College Chapter

On November 19, the Mississippi First college chapter at the University of Mississippi focused on education by hosting a discussion titled, “Education in Mississippi.”  The educational panel featured Sen. Gray Tollison, Sanford Johnson, Dr. Melissa Bass, and Dr. Angela Rutherford. The MSF college chapter is dedicated to engaging students in the policy process and providing a hands-on experience in policy research and advocacy. To read more about the event, visit the MSF Staff Blog.

MSF partners with LEE to host house meetings around the state

Mississippi First is partnering with LEE (Leadership for Educational Equality) to host a variety of house meetings across the state. These house meetings will be paired with young professional presentations that will take place statewide over the next year. The house meetings and presentations will address educational issues impacting young professionals in Mississippi as well as educate people about the work of Mississippi First. The first house meetings have been held in Clarksdale, Greenville, and Cleveland. If you are interested in hosting a house meeting, contact Sanford.

Center for Education Innovation releases Mississippi Scorecards

In the second week of November, the Center for Education Innovation released the Mississippi Scorecards. The Mississippi Scorecards give parents, families, students, communities, organizations, and schools data to help advocate for what is best for children across the state. These new scorecards  will help promote changes that will give every child the opportunity for success in school and beyond. The scorecards are organized by each public school district. Click here to see how your child’s school scores. To learn more about how the Scorecards came to be, read a recent post on the MSF Staff Blog.