IN THIS EDITION:


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NOTE
CHARTER SCHOOLS
CHART INITIATIVE
PRE KINDERGARTEN
SCHOOL TURNAROUND

___________________________________________________________


EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR NOTE
Quick update of MSF over the past month

  • Jobs at MSF– In November, we will be hiring a new Deputy Director of Policy and a Teen Health Policy Coordinator. The MSF team is continuing to grow; stay tuned to MSF Staff Blog for our new-hire announcements in the upcoming weeks.
  • WISE State– We are excited to announce Mississippi is the next WISE State (Working to Institutionalize Sex Education). Mississippi joins 9 other states currently active with the WISE Initiative. The primary goal of WISE is to integrate sexual health education within our public schools’ academic program. This is precisely what we’ve been doing through our CHART Initiative for the past two years. As a WISE state, we are able to increase our work in our 33 CHART districts, while also expanding to other districts.
  • Common Core– Over the past month, we have made great strides with the transition from the Mississippi State Frameworks to the new Common Core State Standards. MSF has taken the lead on developing the Common Core campaign Choose Excellence, a campaign dedicated to providing resources about the Common Core State Standards and implementation in Mississippi. The campaign will be supported by the new coalition CommonCoreMS. In the next few weeks, CommonCoreMS will officially launch the Choose Excellence campaign. All CommonCoreMS announcements will be made on the MSF Staff Blog and Facebook.
  • 5-Year Anniversary– Can you believe it has been 5 years? Over the past 5 years, MSF has worked hard to promote educational excellence across the State of Mississippi. Click here to view our 5-year timeline of MSF’s history. We hope you will continue to follow us and support us in our next 5 years!
  • Ole Miss Black Student Union– Sanford and I were invited by the Ole Miss Black Student Union to speak to the members about policy and politics. We discussed several education issues including preK, charter schools, Common Core, and sex education. We also shared our concerns about the current state/national political environment and challenged the BSU members to get involved in the policymaking process. After the meeting, we had dinner with the BSU executive committee. Special thanks to Tim Abram, BSU Vice President and 2013 MSF Summer Intern, for extending the invitation.

___________________________________________________________

CHARTER SCHOOLS
The Mississippi Charter Authorizing Board finalizes Timeline

Charter-related updates will come rather frequently as we move closer to the the December 1 deadline.  Stay tuned to MSF.

The Mississippi Charter Authorizing Board met again on October 22, 2013, to continue working towards hiring an Executive Director, creating a fundraising plan for the Board to assist with programming expenses, and finalizing the charter school application deadlines.

  • Executive Director Search–At the October meeting, the Authorizing Board discussed hiring a consultant to help with the application and review process until they could get a permanent Executive Director in place. They are able to hire an interim as well, if they choose to, prior to hiring a permanent ED. Considering the lack of time between the October meeting and the December 1 deadline for the application to be released, it would be very hard to recruit and hire either an interim ED or a permanent ED to work on the application. Any consultant would also be hard to recruit and hire in that timeframe, not to mention the Board’s current lack of operating capital. The Board also discussed the problematic language in the bill that requires the ED to have a license to practice law in Mississippi–a requirement that was originally intended to apply only to a separate position of General Counsel for the Authorizing Board. While they are likely to ask the legislature to address this issue in the 2014 session, a few Board members noted that it was possible they could find a qualified person with a JD. The Board decided to move forward with looking for a consultant to provide support around the RFP and will revisit the ED search at a future meeting.

  • Fundraising–The Board reported having no contributions or other fund balance as of the October meeting. However, they did approve a motion to accept charitable contributions into a bank account that they also approved be established with the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration, the official administrative agency for state entities. Board Chair Tommie Cardin alluded to a possible donation that may be received by the Board prior to their November meeting; however, no specifics were provided. We expect to hear that the Authorizing Board has received a large donation for its start-up costs by the November meeting.

  • Charter School Application Timeline–As of November 1, the Board now has a draft of the charter school application for review and public comment; find it on the IHL website. Public comment on the draft is due by November 13 per the instructions provided on IHL’s website. The finalized charter school application will be released on November 22, 2013. When the final application has been approved and made public, we will make sure to link it to the MSF Charter School resource page. At this point, it does not look feasible for any charter school applications to be approved to open in the 2014-2015 school year.  Rather, the first Mississippi charter schools will likely open in the fall of 2015 and use 2014-2015 as a planning year. The Board did not totally foreclose the possibility of schools opening in 2014; however, they did describe such a scenario as being akin to a miracle.

The next Mississippi Charter Authorizing Board meeting will be on November 18, 2013. We will keep you updated with the Board’s progress.

___________________________________________________________

CHART
Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens

October has been a big month for CHART! At the end of September, Mississippi was named the 10th WISE (Working to Institutionalize Sex Education) State. The WISE Initiative was launched in 2009 as a way to provide funding, partnership development, and best practices to states implementing comprehensive sex education. Being a WISE state means that Mississippi will continue to integrate healthy sex education in our public school system. We will be able to increase our district reach and provide more resources to educators and school districts, thus making a greater impact on reducing teen pregnancy and STDs through medically accurate, evidence-based prevention programs.

In September, the CHART team trained teachers and administrators. In October, the CHART team began meeting with parents. Parent meetings give parents the opportunity to review the curriculum, connect with the teachers, and have their questions answered. This past month, parent meetings were held in Forest Middle and High School. Parent meetings will continue throughout the semester. Want to know when a parent meeting is happening in your community? Follow us onFacebook!

CHART also has a new look! Our new logo was created to help define the CHART program and all the great work CHART is doing in Mississippi. Also, MSF released the new job description for the Teen Health Coordinator. A hiring announcement will be made later in the month. For more questions about the CHART Initiative, please contact Deputy Director Sanford Johnson at sanford (at) mississippifirst.org.

___________________________________________________________

PREKINDERGARTEN
State preK RFP released

In October, the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) released the application for the first phase of preK collaborative awards. 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. The preK RFP can be downloaded by visiting the MDE website. The deadline for receipt of proposals is on or before 3:30 p.m., Central Time (CT) on Tuesday, November 5, 2013. MDE received over 70 letters of intent to apply from communities across the state. If even half the number of communities apply as completed a letter of intent, competition will be extremely fierce for the first-phase awards.

In addition to the RFP, MDE’s Office of Instructional Enhancement released a Q & A document detailing information about the preK collaboratives. The document outlines information on completing the RFP, assessment, program evaluation, teacher and program licensing, and curriculum and standards. Notification of awards will be made on December 19, 2013.

Finally, MDE has set up a listserv for any parties interested in early education; click here to subscribe to the listserv.

___________________________________________________________

SCHOOL TURNAROUND
Common Core State Standards

Common Core has become a large focus of MSF during October. MSF is playing a lead role in developing a new Common Core campaign called Choose Excellence. The campaign will be supported by a new coalition, CommonCoreMS, which will be dedicated to providing resources and information about implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mississippi schools. In the next week, CommonCoreMS will launch a website that will provide a variety of resources for parents, educators, and community organizations. Along with developing the CommonCoreMS website, MSF is working to create a list of dedicated partners who support the implementation of Common Core in Mississippi. Stay tuned for more announcements on CommonCoreMS in the next few weeks.

If you are interested in signing onto the Choose Excellence campaign to support Common Core in Mississippi, contact us at commoncore (at)mississippifirst.org.