HomeOpinionOPINION: JMCSS is flourishing amid questions, misinformation

OPINION: JMCSS is flourishing amid questions, misinformation

By Ricky Catlett

JMCSS Deputy Superintendent

Opinions are like cell phones. These days everybody has one.

That’s why it’s important for organizations, like Jackson-Madison County Schools, to provide facts and data that help stakeholders filter through wild opinions and misinformation.

Here’s a fact: there’s never been a better time to choose JMCSS.

For the first time in the history of our system, we were designated a Level 5 school district by the Tennessee Department of Education for significant improvements in math and English language arts for grades 3-8.

A total of 12 schools received Level 5 designations: Andrew Jackson, East, Isaac Lane, JCM-Early College, JCT, Madison Academic, North Parkway, Northeast, Pope, South, South Side, and Thelma Barker. Four schools received Level 4 designations: Alexander, Denmark, JCM Middle, and West Bemis. Nine schools were designated Reward Schools by the Department of Education. Alexander, East, Isaac Lane, JCM-ECH, Madison Academic, Northeast, Pope, South, and Thelma Barker.

Our teachers are meeting students where they are and moving them forward! Over the last three years, 68 JMCSS students have scored 30 or higher on the ACT, with several of the students having multiple scores over 30. The state average composite ACT score is 19.1 while the national average composite ACT score is 19.8. Scoring 30 or higher on the ACT is a remarkable achievement! During the 2022-2023 school year, 29 students scored 30 or above on the ACT.

Another fact we’re excited about is our district’s graduation rate increased to 90%. On-campus graduation coaches at our high schools have made a positive impact. Extraordinary efforts from the 766 graduating seniors from Jackson Academic STEAM Academy, JCM Early College High, JCM High, Liberty Tech, Madison Academic, North Side, and South Side resulted in a districtwide scholarship total of $20,140,785.00 for the Class of 2023.

At a time when the effectiveness of public education is questioned and under attack, the achievements of our students are a testament to the priceless service our teachers and schools provide to families.

Our school board members also deserve to be commended after receiving the Award for Excellence in Education Program from the Tennessee School Boards Association for JCM-Early College High School and were featured in TSBA’s Journal magazine. The JCM ECH model is unique and one of only a few in the state. It allows students to earn an associate degree or workforce certificate at no cost to families! In five graduating classes, JCM ECH has had 136 students graduate with an associate degree – including 38 students this past May. The program would not have been possible without the full backing of the school board and Superintendent Dr. Marlon King.

The rising community confidence in our district is evident in several ways. Nearly half of our schools have experienced increased enrollment. Our average daily enrollment increased from last year. 11,732.2 in 2023 from 11,701.1 in 2022.

Remember, these numbers do not include our PreK students. The inclusion of our PreK learners increased our 2023 enrollment to 12,553.

And for the second year in a row, Jackson’s business community showed its support for Dr. King and JMCSS with more than $100,000 dollars in sponsorships at the JMCSS Gala – presented by Leaders Credit Union. People love a winner and winning is what our district is doing right now. We’re not perfect, but we’re getting better!

We’re also getting better in trade and industry studies. Our Innovation Impact Institutes and LOOP provide skills, work-based learning, and job opportunities for students at Jackson Energy Authority, Stanley Black and Decker, West Tennessee Healthcare, and many more local industries.

Our students also excel in athletics and the arts. The South Side Lady Hawks won the Class 3A State Championship in girls’ basketball. In boys’ soccer, Madison Academic claimed the Class A State Championship; and Madison’s Adolfo Miereles earned a state title in track and field for the 2nd year in a row.

For these reasons, and many more that can’t fit into the constraints of this column, I can say with confidence that the value of a JMCSS diploma is as worthy as it’s ever been because the opportunities provided to our students are varied and enriching.

Our teachers continue to meet the task of providing rigor with care for all students, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status. That’s the beauty of public education. It’s a challenge, but it is also a calling. We stand ready and committed to begin the task again in August under the strong leadership of a true community advocate and champion in Superintendent King.

Please join me in supporting him and our community schools. We welcome your questions and feedback! Visit www.jmcss.org/letstalk to connect with JMCSS.

Ricky Catlett is a deputy superintendent for Jackson-Madison County Schools and a former principal at South Elementary, Bemis Middle and North Side High.

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