Oxford Schools Superintendent Harvey: ‘I owe the community an apology’

Published 9:32 am Sunday, October 2, 2016

By Brian Harvey

Superintendent/Oxford School District

An Apology

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I owe the community an apology. I realize that my choice of words while discussing the school district’s achievement gap was hurtful to many students, parents and community members. Please know this was never my intent and that I value each student in our district and each member of our community. I am truly sorry.

For the Record

I want our community to know that the Oxford School District has never planned to start or build a school for free and reduced lunch or low-achieving students. The only discussion we have had regarding building a school is a new elementary school to replace Oxford Elementary School, which cannot hold all of our current first and second graders.

Doing What’s Best for Our Students

Improving student achievement is the primary goal of the Oxford School District, and we are lucky to live in a community that supports education for all of its students. It is because of that reason that people who currently live in other parts of our state and even the southeast region want to consider Oxford as their home. We are growing, and I believe we are growing because of the quality of our schools. That is a strong testament to our exceptional teachers, administrators and support staff. We do a lot of things well; in fact, in the next couple of weeks, our schools and district will be officially ranked among the best in the state.

Being Good, Not Good Enough

Although our school district excels in many areas such as academics, arts, and athletics, we certainly have room to improve. We have one of the largest achievement gaps in the state. I believe that it is our school district’s responsibility to address closing the student achievement gap: doing nothing about it is not an option. Having a lukewarm attitude about the issue will only leave our school district standing in the same place years down the road while the achievement gap continues to widen, which is unfair to our present and future students.

Investigating Options

Last spring, I attended the Mississippi Association of School Administrators’ conference in Jackson. One of the presenters was Dr. John Hodge, President of the Urban Learning and Leadership Center (ULLC). He made a presentation on how one community in Virginia made an impact with at-risk students. After hearing his presentation and internalizing the fact that we, the Oxford School District, has not performed for all students per our mission of “First in Class – The Oxford Way”, I felt moved to act. As a result, I asked if Dr. Hodge and other members of the ULLC would make a presentation to the Board of Trustees and members of Oxford’s economic development, social service and faith-based communities about options that we might consider to close the achievement gap. That presentation was held on June 22, 2016 during a special called meeting of the Board of Trustees, which was open to the public. Their presentation included different models.

Last week, OHS Principal, Mr. Bradley Roberson, Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Jeff Clay and myself visited a metropolitan Nashville public high school where they have implemented a program called Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID), this is another program whose stated mission is to “Close the achievement gap by preparing all students for college and career readiness and success in a global society.” This program, too, has seen tremendous results throughout the country.

Moving Forward

It is my intent as well as that of the Board of Trustees to include the community in whatever discussions and decisions are made about the future of our schools and students. I want to thank the parents and community for supporting the Oxford School District and we encourage you to participate in the education for all of our children. We encourage you to attend board meetings, sign up for our the Oxford School District Newsletter, and become engaged in how to help our students have a better chance to succeed in life.