by Ariel McRae
The Humboldt School Board met on Thursday, October 6 to discuss a relatively short agenda. The biggest focuses of the meeting was to have discussion regarding the possible extension of Dr. Janice Epperson’s contract as the superintendent of the Humboldt City Schools system as well as discuss the items listed within the Superintendent’s report.
After the roll call indicated that only four members of the board were present, Board member Mark Hodge was unable to attend.
First on the agenda was to present the superintendent’s evaluation report. This evaluation was conducted to track the progress Dr. Epperson has made within the HCS school system as well as note improvements that still need to occur. Through the administrative survey, which was taken from the administrators of the schools under Dr. Epperson, it showed a combined score of 4.58. Through the board observational data, which was gathered from the members of the board, Dr. Epperson’s combined score was 4.18. This lead the superintendent’s total average for her evaluation score to be 4.38.
“I am happy to say that our superintendent, Dr. Epperson, according to what we have received is doing well above what is expected,” School board member Valeria Wedley stated in congratulations to Dr. Epperson. “We are glad, thankful and grateful to get on the same [page] as our superintendent. We are happy that you scored very high.”
Next, there was discussion opened for the impending extension of Dr. Epperson’s contract. Currently, the superintendent contract is only through the 2023-2024 school year. When she first took the job, the school board, per Wedley, wanted to write her a contract for five years with the Humboldt City Schools. The board members were told the state only allows for a superintendent to be given a contract for three years at a time. With her well into her second year as superintendent, Dr. Epperson is now eligible for an extension vote that would grant her the ability to remain at her position through the 2026-2027 school year.
Everyone on the board that attended the meeting last Thursday was supportive and vocal about their desire to extend her contract further because of how good her evaluation scores are. The official vote will not be on the agenda until the next school board meeting. Board member, Terry Johnson, told Dr. Epperson he thought she was doing a great job and the board needed to try to keep her as long as they could. Another board member, Wayne McLemore, agreed with Johnson about Dr. Epperson doing well but added that they would need to continually address test scores, graduation rates and finances. Wedley agreed with the rest of the board and touched on the positive things Dr. Epperson was doing including being active on social media.
“I got to support you. Vision is a funny thing. God gave you that vision, and everybody may not see that vision,” board member, Leon McNeal, addressed Dr. Epperson about her success as superintendent. “You took the burden off of [the board members] to step onto the battle field and see what needed to be done. You started doing something about it and you have my support.”
Continuing with the agenda, both the budget amendments and the board policy updates were voted through unanimously by the board. The board policy updates approved were the enrollment in advanced courses and the changes to credit recovery indicating that the highest grade a student can make in credit recovery is a D via the state. The final agenda item was the superintendent’s report.
Throughout the report the superintendent, Dr. Epperson, delivered the information regarding the HCS attendance for the year so far as well as the appeals the schools have made for accountability. While discussing the attendance records for the schools over the past two months, Dr. Epperson found that some of the students without perfect attendance might be being taken out of school by their parents for breaks due to a difference in scheduling with other districts. Dr. Epperson suggested that HCS system look at other district schedules and try to match theirs in the future. This might limit the absences.
“At Stigall, we have 69 students with perfect attendance [this year]. At East, we have 151 students with perfect attendance, and at Humboldt Jr./Sr. High School we have 65 students with perfect attendance,” Dr. Epperson reported to the board and meeting attendees. “We are trying to have something [special] every month to show students why they should be at school.”
The appeals made by the Humboldt City Schools are still under way for ready graduate and chronically out of school, but they have received an update to the graduation rate cohort and the school system is now at an 87.5 rate, which is an improvement from the previous 87.1. Dr. Epperson hopes to have that improve further as they find more kids and ensure that the gradation rate numbers reflect current students rather than students who have been withdrawn from Humboldt but not taken out of the system with the state. She also stated that Humboldt City Schools is now labeled as satisfactory for district accountability, only missing advancing by a couple tenths of a point.
This week is fall break for all Humboldt City Schools students from October 10-14. However, some students from the third, sixth and seventh grade have been given the option of foregoing fall break to get ahead and receive higher tutoring by Level 5 teachers. If parents and students decide to take advantage of this option, students with similar test score ranges will be grouped together to receive the help that they need from October 10-13 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Buses will run and breakfast as well as a sack lunch will be provided. If this goes over well, the Humboldt City Schools system will implement a similar program for spring break.
Dr. Epperson wanted to remind everyone that homecoming is during the week of fall break, and the homecoming parade will take place downtown. Humboldt is slated to play Peabody on Friday, October 14 at home.
Dr. Epperson ended the meeting with a laugh when she jokingly said, “Next week, as you know, is fall break. If I don’t call you, don’t call me. If you need me, you have until tomorrow night at midnight. That’s it.”
She amended by saying if anyone needs her at anytime please call her, but everyone was excited to take a little break.