Jones County BOE meeting shows success, concerns
TRENTON — Jones County has showcased its success in the school system, but there are still concerns.
During Monday’s Board of Education meeting, numbers were released with Jones County’s progress according to the state board. Five of the six schools in the area met or exceeded growth goals in the county and there were no low performing schools — Jones Senior received a “B” grade with Pollocksville Elementary, Comfort Elementary, Maysville Elementary, Trenton Elementary and Jones Middle all getting “C’s.”
Jones County’s four-year graduation rate is slated at 94.1 percent, above the state average of 86.5 percent, and the ACT and ACT WorkKeys accountability model has the county at 86.7 percent — much higher than the state average of 65 percent.
“I think it’s a result of consistency with administrative teams and strong instructional teachers to help kids perform well,” Jones County Superintendent Dr. Michael Bracy said. “We’re real proud that because of the smallness of our area, we can personalize learning for students, which is a strength for us getting these results.”
Concerns did rise in the meeting about the growth in student population. Jones County was projected to have 1,069 students in the district, but started the year with 1,121. Nicole Jenkins had her son transferred from Trenton Elementary to Southwood Elementary, citing classroom sizes, as well as safety concerns with the new school.
“The board has been unable to satisfactorily answer the questions I have about the structure of the school,” Jenkins said. “The class sizes are also too big, and my son had told me he’s had trouble concentrating. I feel like there are members on the board trying to do their job and teachers want the best for the students, but it seems like the majority isn’t listening.
“I felt like it was best to transfer my son out of Trenton Elementary and head to Southwood. I’m blessed to be in a position to where I can, but I know there are others who aren’t as fortunate.”
Laken Baugus said she’s worried about her child’s safety as well.
“The school is 80 percent glass and we don’t even know if it’s bulletproof,” Baugus said. “Also, we’re in a hurricane-prone area, so God forbid there’s a natural disaster or even a school shooting. There aren’t enough areas where children can be safe in the school, especially when you look at the Pre-K through sixth grade wing — you can’t fit four grades in one bathroom.”
Bracy said there have been discussions about some of the issues.
“Once the numbers are reported, we’re hoping to receive more state funding, allowing us to hire more teachers,” Bracy said. “Safety issues are definitely on the radar and we’re looking at what other schools have been doing in terms of safety protocol — we’re not ignoring them, we’re concerned as they are and our board is looking to put a plan in place.”
Jones County Board Member Michael Wilder said overall, it was a very necessary meeting.
“It was very informative and I thought the citizens had good concerns, which we will address,” Wilder said. “As far as our education numbers, we’ll try to keep it at least level. We’ve got room for improvement, but as long as we stay above the state average, we’re doing a great job.”