500 celebrate 5 years of work to improve MS public education

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Awards PresentationItta Bena, MS, Nov. 13, 2008 — First they spent the day talking some serious stuff, then they par-tayed. 500 students, parents, educators and public officials from more than 20 counties in the Delta region came together at the MS Valley State University campus on Nov. 13 for a one-day celebration of the past 5 years of work together to impact state education policy in the effort to build a quality public education accessible to all children.

This conference was the 5th and final gathering in the series that begin in 2004 as a partnership of Southern Echo and the MS Delta Catalyst Roundtable with the MS Dept. of Education and MS Valley State University.

The conference focused on assessments of the successes, limitations and lessons learned from the collaboration to impact education policies concerning full funding of the MS Adequate Education Program, enhanced funding for children at-risk, dropout prevention and graduation rates, the use of state and local budgets to control education policy and the central importance of effective engagement of parents and students in policy formation and implementation at the local school district level.

Dr. Roy Hudson, Interim President of MVSU, gave a stirring Welcome and Dr. Marvin Haire, Director of the Delta Research and Cultural Institute of MVSU, presented one of the opening keynote presentations, served on a panel to address questions and comments from participants, and provided a Keynote Challenge at the end of the conference concerning the education policy challenges that lie ahead.

State Supt. of Education Hank Bounds, unable to attend in person ambien 10mg because of a prior commitment, presented a Keynote Challenge on video at the end of the conference that identified the core strategies that the MS Dept. of Education will pursue in the years to come to address core education issues confronting Mississippi children.

Dr. Kris Kaase, Deputy Supt. for Instructional Programs and Services, provided a Welcome and served on a panel to answer questions and comments from the audience. Steve Williams, former Deputy Supt. for the Office of Accountability, who retired in 2008, provided an opening keynote address.

Southern Echo President Hollis Watkins welcomed participants and led everyone in freedom songs that lifted spirits and touched hearts, while Southern Echo Asst. Director Brenda Hyde served as Conference Moderator and kept the varied agenda on schedule.

Leroy Johnson, Executive Director of Southern Echo, provided both an opening keynote on the importance of the celebration and a closing Keynote Challenge on the goals of the work yet to be done.

Also participating in the panel sessions were Joyce Parker, Director of Citizens for a Better Greenville, Ashley McKay, a Jackson State University student from Tunica County who is a Southern Echo intern, Dianna Freelon-Foster, Director of Activists With A Purpose (Grenada County), and Martez Harvey, a Grenada high school student.

When the program ended in the late afternoon, a luscious spread of pizza, lunch meats and cookies were laid to waste as younger and older danced to the rhythms dee-jayed by Southern Echo’s own Dickey Selmon.

Click here for more pictures from the conference.