Messages from the Superintendent
Opening Letter 2018Posted by Brian Harvey on 8/6/2018
With the start of a new school year comes many expectations. There are expectations of students, teachers, parents and administrators. This school year begins with the expectations from our community. Not only expectations of a single school year, but expectations of what our community desires for the educational outcomes of our students to be for many years into the future.
Last school year we had a public discussion regarding the award winning documentary Most Likely to Succeed. Through those screenings and the subsequent Portrait of a Graduate process, with the help of many of our community leaders, we identified seven attributes that we desire the graduates of 2030 to possess. You can find those attributes at www.oxfordsd.org/Portrait. Also, we continually discuss how to ensure our students have the opportunities and support necessary to succeed in a world that is increasingly more technological and less reliant on routine jobs.
As such, the District is currently reviewing our vision, mission and goals. Our values will remain unchanged but will take a much more prominent role in shaping the culture of our school district. How will these values lead to improved student outcomes, both short-term and long term? We must raise the expectations for all students and provide them with the necessary support to be successful. By ensuring equity and building relationships, we will provide the service that this community deserves and expects.
In talking with our staff last Friday, I alluded to a stake in the ground regarding our future goals. We discussed the 95 in 5 plan. This plan includes the following five goals in five years: 1) 95% graduation rate 2) 95% proficiency on state assessments 3) 95th percentile in growth on student benchmark assessments 4) 95% of seniors enrolled in AP, dual-enrollment or career and technical education classes 5) 95% of students who enroll in college are eligible to take credit bearing courses as freshmen.
Reaching these goals will not be easy. It will not be achieved by utilizing the teaching methods of the past. It will not be realized using the traditional test-prep approach. It will be achieved through active learning and activities that acknowledge students’ and teachers’ passions. It will involve many of the AVID (Achievement Via Individual Determination) strategies that are growing in our district. It will involve Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). It will involve authentic assessments that relate to our Portrait of a Graduate.
It is important for you, our community, to know that this path is not one without short-term failures. We as a school staff will be learning and innovating with our students. We will be asking what works, imagining solutions to our own problems, building structures and systems to ensure student achievement, evaluating and improving those structures and sharing our results. We will continue to lead the way in innovation and achievement in our state.
Oxford School District
Thank you, Oxford!Posted by Brian Harvey on 9/29/2017
The Oxford School District thanks all those who made it to the polls to vote for our recent bond referendum to build a new elementary school and make additions and renovations to our current school buildings.
Leading the way for the Vote for Oxford Kids’ campaign was Campaign Chair Betsy Smith; she along with volunteers David Calhoun, Julie Field, Will Hunt, Carter Myers, and Denny Tosh took the lead in fundraising and organizing neighborhood captains to get individuals to the polls. Everyone on this hard-working committee invested countless hours and poured untold amounts of energy into this campaign: they made it their labor of love.
Each one of these individuals has special ties to our schools and felt that this was the right time to ask our community to invest in the generations of the future, so that our children can receive the "First in Class” educational experience that our district delivers to Oxford students every school day.
As a school district who is also experiencing the continued growth within our community, many of you continue to put our students’ needs first by promoting a safe, healthy environment and encouraging innovative learning. You also have made it essential that our school buildings do the same — for all of this and more, I offer a heartfelt thank you to our community.
I appreciate the community’s important decision to vote on this bond referendum for our school district. Our children are the future. I hope that we can continue to give them the best educational opportunities possible. Thanks to all for your continued support of the Oxford School District.
Brian D. Harvey
Oxford School District Superintendent
A Warning to Parents of New Social Media Trend that Could Be a Matter of Life or Death for Your ChildPosted by Brian Harvey on 5/22/2017 11:20:00 AM
As parents, our natural instinct is to protect our children. It’s critically important that our parents are equipped with information necessary to protect their children, who are also our students. That’s why I want to share information about a new game, called the “Blue Whale Challenge”, that’s trending on social media; it’s one that entices our youth to harm themselves, and even possibly commit suicide.
According to knowyourmeme.com, the Blue Whale Challenge, also known as the Blue Whale suicide game, is an online game in which participants are assigned a curator who provides various tasks, or acts of self harm, to be committed over the course of 50 days. On the final day, participants are urged to win the challenge by committing suicide.
Teens supposedly “tag” each other on social media and then challenge each other to play. According to multiple online news reports, teens who decide to play then download the Blue Whale app, which tracks their personal information and cannot be deleted; the app originators then threaten the teenagers with harm to their families or releasing of personal information until they kill themselves.
Your child’s safety is always our number one priority: we will do our best to safeguard your child while at school. At home, we suggest you look for certain signs your child might exhibit such as isolation/loss of interest, giving their personal items away, or spending extra time online.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or offer to share information: please contact your child’s school counselor or the school district office, so that we may offer help. Also, if your teen or someone you know needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Brian Harvey, Superintendent
Oxford School District
Preparation is key to future success of students and communityPosted by Brian Harvey on 5/1/2017 10:15:00 AM
The Oxford School District, based on the state’s most recent ratings of schools, is ranked first among Mississippi’s public schools. Currently, Oxford High School (OHS) has 16 National Merit Semifinalists and 91 OHS students who have a 30 or better on the ACT: our ACT and SAT scores are among the best in the state. Our arts, drama, debate, journalism, choral, and band programs are all award-winning programs. Our athletic department, with multiple 2016-2017 state championships, is ranked 14th nationally in the most recent MaxPreps Cup rankings. These successes are rooted in the hard work of our students, teachers, staff and administrators with support from our parents and community. We live in one of the best communities in the state of Mississippi and the Southeast region. Our schools, city and county are increasing in numbers and with that growth comes the responsibility to prepare for the future.
Recent decisions made by the Board of Trustees of the Oxford School District and the Lafayette County School District — as well as the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Alderman — have focused efforts on literacy for our youngest citizens that will further improve the quality of lives for all of our residents for generations to come. The Oxford-Lafayette School of Technology Board has recently made the decision to transition to a computer coding class that will further enhance our students’ opportunities to be competitive with the jobs of the future.
We must take action now to prepare for the future success of our community.
On Monday, April 10, 2017, the first community meeting was held to discuss a possible bond referendum for a new elementary school. We looked at birth rates in the county and how they impact the Oxford School District. We discussed enrollment in all of our grades, prekindergarten (pre-K) through twelfth grade, and we briefly discussed the needs of our existing schools. A community meeting is scheduled for Monday, May 1, 2017, at 6 p.m. at the Kayla Sue Mize Auditorium on the campus of Oxford Middle School; the last community meeting will be held next month on Monday, June 5. Tonight’s community meeting, after a brief review of the numbers, will focus on evaluating several sites and a more in-depth review of existing school district facilities.
These community meetings are important because they help us determine a direction for the next generation of our citizens. Your input is wanted and needed; your input is an important part of the planning process and one that, if we are going to continue to be looked as a leading community in our state and region, requires your participation. We hope you will join us tonight; but, if not, please visit www.oxfordsd.org/bondref to provide your thoughts and feedback.
Attendance MattersPosted by Brian Harvey on 10/21/2015
First Day of School
The first day of school seems like it was just yesterday: it’s a day that can send parents and students on a roller coaster of emotions.
That first day of school triggers a range of emotions for us all, but hopefully the emotions of joy, excitement, and anticipation trump those of worry and sadness. Honestly, if we all—parents and students—were as excited about school every day as we are about the very first day of school, I believe we would not have an issue with school attendance.
Fall is the time when school officials look at school attendance numbers. We ask, “how many students are missing class?” and, “Why are they missing class?” Missing school on a regular basis—whether the absences are excused or unexcused—is known as having chronic absences. Chronic absences is a matter that can actually map out how your child will perform in school and in their adult life.
Showing Up Matters
Theodore Roosevelt once said, “It is hard to fail, but it worse never to have tried to succeed.”
Think about it: All of our efforts to improve curriculum and instruction won’t matter much if our kids are not in school.
If our kids miss out on school, we will never narrow the achievement gap or reduce our dropout rate. We have to bring the problem of chronic absence under control, and that means starting early.
By paying attention to absences now, early in the school year, we can turn around attendance and achievement. Paying attention early in a child’s academic career is important, too. Children in kindergarten who miss ten percent of the school year can suffer academically. And these absences don’t just impact the students missing class: it slows down instruction for other students. Chronic absences make it harder for students to learn and teachers to teach.
So, if we help our students succeed, it will be hard to fail them. It’s worse if we don’t even try to help them succeed.
Did you know that our low-income students are the ones hit the hardest by chronic absences because they depend more on school for opportunities to learn? They are more likely to face systemic barriers to getting to school.
Students are more likely to go to school if they know someone cares whether they are showing up. Trusting relationships—whether they are with teachers, mentors, coaches or other caring adults—are critical to encouraging families and students to seek out help to overcome barriers that hinder attendance.
Must Be Present to Win
Here lately you have probably been approached by a student asking you to purchase a ticket for a school fundraiser. Often on the ticket you purchase, it’ll say “Do not have to be present to win.” In some fundraisers, you do have to be present to win.
That’s how I like to think about our kids, their academic achievement and classroom instruction. Our students must be present to win in the classroom and in life. Going to school every day matters for every student: they must be present to win!
Attendance matters to us all. When our schools graduate more students, on time, our communities and our economy are stronger. We have more people who are prepared for the workplace and more engaged in our community’s civic life.
Let’s work together to help all kids attend school today, so that they can achieve their tomorrow.
Back-to-School Time, A Reminder That We All Are Dealers in Hope for Our Students’ FuturePosted by Brian Harvey on 8/6/2015 11:15:00 AM
Back to school. Excitement and expectations abound in the Oxford School District. Back-to-school time offers hope—a hope for a better tomorrow for our children. Hope is a power that energizes us with excitement as we look forward to the future. However, the hope for a better tomorrow for our children comes with shared responsibilities from educators, children and parents.
Hope is defined as an optimistic attitude of mind based on an expectation of positive outcomes related to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large.
Back to school also gives us an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves that schools exist for our children—to give students the very best education we can give them, so that they can one day be successful adults and citizens.
As educators, our responsibilities include providing a high-quality learning environment so that students can reach their full academic potential, letting parents know how their children are doing in school, and giving our parents opportunities to volunteer and participate in their child’s classroom activities.
Back-to-school time is when our teachers renew their commitment to offer hope for our students, which they deliver through excellent educational experiences. Our teachers keep hope alive in the classroom: they teach and demonstrate to our students that the impossible is possible in any program a student is involved in, whether it is athletics, arts or academics.
This same commitment of hope from our school district trickles down to our parents. Our teachers and school leaders provide a level of customer service that assures our parents that with hope, together, we can make things better. After all, our children’s hope for a better tomorrow falls on everyone’s shoulders. It’s an equally shared responsibility among our parents, students, teachers and school staff.
Parents are responsible for supporting their children’s learning by monitoring their school attendance, ensuring that homework is complete, monitoring the amount of television children watch, volunteering in their child’s classroom, and participating in decisions related to their child’s education.
Students are responsible for improving their academic achievement by doing homework every day and asking for help when they need it, reading at least 30 minutes every day outside of school time, and giving their parents school notices and information they receive from school every day.
Napoleon said, “Leaders are dealers in hope.”
We must all be dealers in hope. We all have our responsibilities and must equally do our part, so that our shared vision for a better tomorrow for our children will become a reality for them. We all hope that our children are better prepared for tomorrow because of what we have done today.
Students, do the very best you can in whatever you do inside and outside of the classroom this school year. Also, never lose hope; use hope to overcome obstacles and transform them into possibilities.
Brian D. Harvey, Superintendent
Oxford School District
Public education must be fully funded so our school students can succeedPosted by Superintendent Brian D. Harvey on 12/14/2014 8:00:00 AM
Since 2009, Oxford school children have been shorted $10 million in educational funding promised to them by the Mississippi Legislature through the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), the Legislature’s funding formula for our K-12 public schools. Between 2011-2014 alone, the Oxford School District was underfunded $7,096,396 by the state Legislature. As Superintendent, it pains me to see our elected state leaders fail on their commitment to our school children.
Despite the years of inadequate funding, the Oxford School District has continued to excel academically as one of the highest performing school districts in the state. We are committed to giving all students the best educational experience possible. Honestly, our community expects it of us; however, to deliver an “A” or “B” school district, our local community has had to pay a hefty price.
When our legislators do not fully fund public education, it puts more pressure locally on our taxpayers. The Oxford School District is forced to turn to you, the taxpayer, to help us carry this financial burden, which means raising property taxes locally. Personally, it’s not something I like to ask of my community. Our community cannot financially afford to carry the weight and responsibility of making sure that an adequate education is provided for our public school students simply because our lawmakers turn a blind eye to the underfunding of public education.
You, the Oxford-Lafayette community, made it known that you are ready to hold our state legislators accountable for fully funding public education. This summer and early fall our county, along with all other counties in Mississippi, garnered nearly 200,000 signatures to put an amendment to the Constitution before the voters. The proposed amendment—Initiative #42—would require the Legislature to provide funding to cover an adequate education for all K-12 students.
The Legislature’s failure to fully fund MAEP can be compared to that of a state without compulsory attendance. When our state lawmakers do not fully fund public education, they are sending the message to our businesses, our community and our children that this state does not value public education.
I urge you to contact our local lawmakers to let them know that we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the underfunding of public education. By signing the petitions for Initiative #42, our community made it known that we support fully funding public education for our school students. The weight of responsibility is heavy, and Oxford has done more than what is expected of us: it’s time our local lawmakers echo what Oxford has to say through the halls of the Capitol in Jackson. We cannot afford to experience another 11 years of public education being underfunded. As a state, we are in danger of under educating an entire generation of our citizens.
Brian D. Harvey
Superintendent of Education
Oxford School District
Attending Today. Achieving Tomorrow.Posted by Superintendent Brian D. Harvey on 10/1/2014 8:30:00 AM
The first month of school has come and gone, and the Oxford School District is already seeing students missing too many days of school. Chronic absences occur when a student misses 10 percent or more total school days, about 18 days per year, for any reason including excused absences.
As Superintendent for the Oxford School District, this concerns me immensely. If some of our students continue on this path, they are headed down a path of academic trouble if we—teachers, parents, families, and our community—do not immediately address this problem in a collective manner.
Why does school attendance matter? Research backs up the common sense notion that if our kids are not in their classrooms learning because they are absent, then they will do worse in school down the road. Believe it or not, chronic absence is a trend we start seeing as early as kindergarten and continuing through high school.
The Present Chronic Absence Picture for the Oxford School District
Just to paint a picture of how chronic absence has already impacted our student’s academic achievement, here’s a breakdown of chronic absences for each school in our district so far this school year.
- Bramlett Elementary School
11.1 percent of prekindergarten and Kindergarten students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Oxford Elementary School
8.3 percent of first- and second-grade students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Della Davidson Elementary School
6.9 percent of third- and fourth-grade students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Oxford Intermediate School
7.4 percent of fifth- and sixth-grade students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Oxford Middle School
5.1 percent of seventh- and eighth-grade students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Oxford High School
6.7 percent of ninth through 12th grade students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Scott Center
20 percent of Scott Center students are at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
- Oxford School District
7.4 percent of our OVERALL student population is at or above missing 10 percent of their academic school year.
Why Chronic Absence Matters
Under a new Mississippi law, public school students must be present in school for at least 63 percent of the school day to be counted present. Our school district has updated our own school district’s School Attendance Policy so that we are in compliance with the law. That’s why we need our parents and families to help support our teachers and principals with reaching attendance goals, particularly our schools we are working to improve. Just as we use test scores to measure the progress that students and schools are making, we are also looking at chronic absence numbers on a regular basis.
Most importantly, chronic absence can have consequences throughout a child’s academic career, especially for those students living in poverty, who need school the most and are sometimes getting the least. Chronic absence isn’t just about truancy or willfully skipping school. Instead, children stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, bullying or simply because their parents do not understand how quickly absences add up and affect school performance.
Turning It Around: What We Can Do about Chronic Absences
We can turn this around, but our schools cannot do this alone. We need our parents and families to build a habit of good attendance, enforce bedtimes and other routines and avoid vacations while school is in session. Teachers will reinforce these messages and, when they can, offer fun incentives for those students who show the best attendance or most improvement. Businesses, faith leaders and community volunteers can also convey this message.
We are calling on the entire Oxford community to help. If there are certain concerns or reasons such as traffic safety, health issues or community pressures keeping our school children home, we want to know.
Stop and think about what you can do within your own family and your own neighborhood to help get more kids to school. Join us in our effort to make every day count. Every school day counts towards our school children’s success in the classroom and in life: if they attend today, they will achieve tomorrow.
- Bramlett Elementary School
Preparing Our Students for Their FuturePosted by Brian Harvey on 7/8/2014 12:00:00 PMSo, why now? Why is the school district moving into our One to One Digital Learning Initiative?
Our school children learn and function in a digital world, one in which they will enter the workforce or attend college. Just look around you in your home or in public: you'll see the new generation of learners everywhere.
If you attended one of our Parent Info Sessions about the One to One Digital Learning Initiative in May, you heard the terms "college- and career-ready" several times. As educators, we know it's what we teach our students that will help them reach their dreams of college and career success.
As we dig deeper into the One to One Digital Learning Initiative, I encourage our parents and families to think about how our future generation is learning. As adults, our children are going to challenge us to learn and have a better understanding of their world. Why not start learning and evolving with them now?
It's my hope that all of our parents and families will embrace this change that our students and children are excited about and one that will offer them a step closer to becoming the 21st century student they want to be.
Challenges Can Become OpportunitiesPosted by Brian Harvey on 4/10/2014 1:55:00 PM
Growing is a natural process in life. We grow taller. We grow older. We grow wiser. As we grow, we change. Our body changes. Our age changes. Our mind, sight and movement change. Change can be a scary word or it can be a refreshing word, and it really all depends on how you look at this word "change" and embrace it. How do you treat change?
Well, I can tell you some things are changing in the Oxford School District. We are growing, and our student population is growing much like our very own community. Steady growth can be difficult to address, but as educators we have to plan accordingly with asking ourselves these questions at the end of the day: are our children ready for college? are our children career-ready? Our students come first, and they drive the decisions we make everyday such as the grade reconfiguration. We are connecting our schools to improve the learning environment for our schoolchildren. The grade reconfiguration is a positive step forward with an eye toward the future of our students and the school district.
I encourage our students and parents to start getting ready for this big change and how different our schools will be set up and even look. For more information about the upcoming school year grade reconfiguration , visit the Oxford School District website.