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Pascagoula-Gautier School District

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Drop-out Prevention

The ground work for the Pascagoula School District's Drop-out Prevention Program began in the spring of 2007. The Pascagoula School District gathered a cross-section of citizens from Pascagoula and Gautier to create the district's new strategic planning team. The planning team consisted of parents, business people, clergy, faculty and teachers, as well as administrators from the district.The concept of Destination Graduation! was introduced for the first time to the community during this strategic planning meeting.
The theme, Destination Graduation!, is embedded in the Pascagoula School District's new mission statement. This mission statement and the district's new strategic plan were formally adopted by the Pascagoula School District Board of Trustees at the Aug. 27, 2007, board meeting.
The Pascagoula School District commits to a standard of excellence that prepares students for productive lives by creating a culture that encourages and expects success, reaching Destination Graduation! and beyond.
A copy of the district's strategic plan, including the mission statement, beliefs, parameters, objectives and strategies, is located on the Pascagoula School District's website.
Step Two of Destination Graduation! was unveiled at the school district's SOAR (Students' Outstanding Achievement Rally), a celebration held annually in May to celebrate students' successes during the school year. The event kicked off with a huge parade of students and teachers around the track at the football stadium.Theme for SOAR 2007 was Destination Graduation!Three hundred students were selected to participate in the parade, and all were provided with a Destination Graduation! t-shirt with the year of their high school graduation imprinted on the back. For example, kindergarten students' shirts were imprinted with Destination Graduation! "Class of 2020."
During the summer of 2007, Destination Graduation! yard signs, banners, decals, buttons, bumper stickers, billboard signs, business cards and a commercial were designed. At the opening of the 2007-2008 school year, every employee of the school district was provided with a t-shirt with the motto, "Teach Mississippi" on the front and "Destination Graduation!" on the back.
All 1,150 employees donned their t-shirts for the back-to-school kick-off rally at the Jackson County Civic Center. Yard signs, banners, bumper stickers, buttons and decals were circulated to all 19 schools to distribute to employees and visitors to the school.
Destination Graduation! rallies were held in the cities of Gautier and Pascagoula on two different evenings with more than 3,000 people in attendance. The Superintendent and Principals spoke on the importance of being involved in the Destination Graduation! campaign, and cheerleaders led the crowd in a Destination Graduation! wave around the gymnasium. The local newspaper, The Mississippi Press, gave the Destination Graduation! rally a full-page spread, and The Sun Herald provided pre-rally coverage to spread the word about the rallies.
Businesses touted the Destination Graduation! theme on their marquees to help spread the word about the campaign. Local television station, WLOX, featured the campaign on its 4 p.m. show prior to the rallies and covered the Gautier Rally, featuring the story on its 10 p.m. news show and 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. morning shows the next day.
A round of speaking engagements followed throughout the communities of Gautier and Pascagoula. Supt. Rodolfich went before both city councils to ask permission for Destination Graduation! yard signs to be placed throughout the cities of Gautier and Pascagoula. He was also the guest speaker at the Pascagoula and Gautier Rotary Club meetings, Pascagoula Kiwanis Club, the Pascagoula Anola Club, the Jackson County Republican Women, the Excel by 5 Coalition meeting and is a monthly guest speaker on WPMP radio station's "Eye on Jackson County" program.
At each meeting, the importance of the entire community becoming involved in the Destination Graduation! campaign is emphasized. The high school graduation rate not only affects crime in local communities, but also provides an employer's educated workforce and directly impacts a community's economy as well.
Destination Graduation! was featured in a five-page spread in the November 2007 issue of South Mississippi Living magazine. The campaign has caught attention throughout Mississippi with Supt. Rodolfich speaking at the Mississippi School Board Association Conference, the Gulf Coast Education Initiative Consortium, Mississippi Association of Partners in Education and a number of other statewide meetings.
Mississippi State Superintendent of Education Dr. Hank Bounds has used the Destination Graduation! motto for the teen drop out prevention summit and adult drop out prevention summit meetings. The Pascagoula School District distributed its DestinationGraduation! yard signs, business cards, decals, bumper stickers and buttons at the teen and adult summits. Gov. Haley Barbour signed a proclamation, naming the week of Jan. 14-18, 2008, "Destination Graduation Week" for the state of Mississippi.
As celebrities from across the nation have visited the school district, each has been presented a Destination Graduation! t-shirt. Celebrities include Alma Powell, wife of former Secretary of State Colin Powell and national chair of America's Promise; Paige Hemmis from ABC's "Extreme Home Makeover;" Maria Schriver's brother, Mark Kennedy Schriver, with "Save the Children;" and Mississippi's Gov. Haley Barbour; First Lady Marsha Barbour; Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant; Blake Wilson with Mississippi Economic Council; and representatives of America's Promise.
Our website posted the Destination Graduation! campaign as well as a power point presentation and the Destination Graduation! commercial. More than 500,000 hits have been logged since the beginning of the school year in August 2007 with more than 1,086,000 pages viewed.  People have logged onto the district's web site from 300 cities across the United States and from more than 66 countries throughout the world. The web site also offers the Parent Internet Viewer, keeping parents up-to-date on students' grades and attendance.
The Pascagoula School District sent letters to colleges and universities across the nation describing the Destination Graduation! campaign, asking these institutions of higher learning to send pennants for College Walls for each of the district's 19 schools. More than 25 pennants adorn the walls at each school. This visual aid reminds students every day of the importance of staying in school and the opportunities that await them after high school graduation. Internally, the Pascagoula School District has many initiatives in place to ensure every child graduates from high school.

The district has a new STAR (Students' Technology and Reading) bus complete with 13 computer stations. The bus is parked at the Boys and Girls Clubs in Gautier and Pascagoula four days a week with a certified teacher onboard to help students with their homework, tutoring and Accelerated Reading tests. The bus also provides professional development to teachers via satellite. Instead of teachers traveling for training, the bus goes to the school site, saving teachers travel time and time spent out of the classroom. But the learning doesn't stop at the end of the school year.
In the summer, the bus is parked at area grocery stores. While parents shop, children can read books and take Accelerated Reading tests. In case of another hurricane, the bus will be moved out of harm's way and then brought back in to be used as an Emergency Operations Center for the school children, local city and county officials and law enforcement.
Each school year, more than one million parent contacts are made building relationships between teachers and the parents of their students. The teachers not only meet one-on-one with these parents, but they also make phone calls, send emails and letters, talk to parents when they are picking up their children or even if they run into them at the grocery store. Administrators also make personal contact when teachers are unable to do so. Keeping these lines of communication open is vital to the success of every child.
The district's Early Beginnings program for parents and their children, ages birth to 5, ensures that these parents have all the necessary parental tools in place so their children are ready to enter kindergarten. Before parents leave the hospital with their newborns, they are provided with packets filled with important information on milestones their children should reach, a resource directory with information vital to a child's total well-being and service agencies available to parents as well as a child's first book. Monthly parenting classes are held, and parenting newsletters provide all parents with information they need to ensure their child is academically, socially and psychologically where he should be before entering kindergarten. The program brings together kindergarten teachers with local day cares and HeadStart,  to share the skills these children need to master before entering kindergarten.
Early Beginnings also targets the pregnant teens and teen mothers in the Pascagoula School District, assessing their needs, building a support system and setting goals for these young mothers so that they will be able to raise healthy children, stay in school and reach graduation.
To assess the skills of every child entering the school district, Kindergarten Discovery Days are held at the beginning of each school year. Instead of monitoring students' skill levels during the first nine weeks, kindergarten teachers invite five students a day into their classrooms with their parents. While parents are taking a tour of the school, the teacher assesses the students' strengths and weaknesses. By the end of the first week, the teacher knows exactly what skills her students need to master and also understands what skills need to be emphasized from the first day of school.
The Teacher Support Team is also in place at each school, helping teachers identify at-risk children in every class and building intervention strategies to help students who are struggling academically. AIMS Web probes are done on all children, which help identify at-risk students and monitor progress of these children. The district has hired part-time Student Intervention Specialists to help monitor these students at all elementary and middle schools. Instructional intervention software has also been purchased for teachers to use as well as professional development training on diversified instruction on how best to reach these students.
Tutoring for at-risk students is held at all schools after school with transportation provided for elementary and middle school students. The district's teachers stay after school to give students the extra one-on-one assistance they need to be successful. That tutoring does not stop in May. During June, an intensive two-week Summer Explorations program provides students fun, creative ways to learn and is a unique opportunity for students to get the extra help they need in their weakest subject areas.  Another two-week program, Summer Scholars, is held to challenge students to think outside the box and stretch their minds. Summer school is held for students in middle school who are struggling in different subject areas.
Each school provides names of students with excessive absences to the district's law enforcement officers. These officers make personal visits to these students' homes, speaking with parents and reinforcing the importance of making sure their children attend school every day. If teachers, in making parent contacts or law enforcement officers making home visits, encounter a lack of response from parents, Supt. Rodolfich makes the phone calls and home visits himself.
The district's English Language Learners population has tripled in the past three years bringing the number of students who speak little or no English to 500. The school district is working through the language barrier by hiring a full-time translator to work as a liaison between the school district and parents, 11 assistant teachers who work with these students one-on-one, and two English teachers to work with secondary ELL students. With the extra help, these students are making tremendous progress in overcoming the language barrier.
The district has also made huge strides in integrating technology, giving teachers and students state-of-the art tools they need in the learning process. Computer labs have been upgraded at all schools; classroom computers have been installed with new software, and Apple computers have been installed in all gifted, music and art classrooms. Smart Boards, Promethian Boards and Mimio technology have been installed in all social studies, science and English classes at the secondary level, as well as in many elementary classrooms.
The Center for Teaching and Learning, a center which provides professional development and assistance for teachers, is being totally refurbished and equipped with state-of-the-art technology in order to reach more teachers at once. The district's new Institute of Technology will provide field trips for students, more professional development opportunities for teachers and computer skills for the residents of Pascagoula & Gautier.
In addition to the guidance counselors in place at all schools, an additional five guidance counselors have been with the school district since Hurricane Katrina, making sure that all students, their families as well as school district employees have someone they can talk to about their problems and concerns. Having these counselors in place has also made a difference in keeping students focused on their ultimate goal of high school graduation instead of giving in to their frustrations whether it be academically, socially or issues in their home life.
With the help of Bacot-McCarty Foundation and other organizations, the Pascagoula School District is receiving help for children who need assistance with food for the weekend. Food is packed each Thursday for families to pick up for the weekend. Enough food is provided to feed the entire family so the students will be better able to participate in educational activities the following week.

HeadStart - Coordinating with kindergarten teachers to ensure all children are ready to enter kindergarten.

Education on the Move - Working to ensure all children have the skills necessary to enter kindergarten

PROMISS - Help for pregnant teens

Boys and Girls Clubs - After school programs for children

GRANS- Providing support for grandparents raising their grandchildren

Civic and service organizations - Providing mentors/partnerships for the district

Faith-based organizations - Providing mentors/partnerships for the district

Business and industry - Providing mentors/partnerships for the district



The district is working to teach relevance - to show students the connection between what's learned in the classroom with the business world as well as job shadowing and career fair opportunities.


The district has a number of drug and alcohol prevention programs in place throughout elementary, middle school and high school levels as well as the alternative school. All programs stress the importance of remaining drug free and the dangers of getting involved with drugs and alcohol. Elementary children are involved with character education, the GREAT program and the Junior Auxiliary Safe Day. Middle school students' programs include Too Good for Drugs and Project Northland, an alcohol prevention program. They also participate in many activities during the Month of the Middle School Child. High school students participate in Second Steps, a violence prevention program as well as a Leadership Class than emphasizes the importance of not using drugs and alcohol. The entire school district participates in Red Ribbon Week where emphasis is placed on staying drug-free.


The district will continue the learning process for incarcerated students at the Youth Detention Center. A classroom for these youth has been set up at the local youth court. The district will also identify other at-risk students such as students in foster care or students whose parents are incarcerated.


The district is ramping teacher recruiting to attract quality teachers to the school district as well as professional development to keep our teachers motivated and excited about teaching and current on the latest information in education.


In conjunction with the Destination Graduation! campaign, the district also launched its Teach Mississippi campaign to encourage others to become involved in the teaching profession. All district employees received t-shirts with the Teach Mississippi message on the front and Destination Graduation! on the back. Billboards were placed throughout South Mississippi with the Teach Mississippi message. The billboards listed the district's website where people could go to find jobs in the Pascagoula School District. The district's website is also linked to the state Department of Education's website so people can find teaching jobs anywhere in the state.


Six hundred kindergartners across the district traveled to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College for a field trip where they received hands-on experience in a variety of careers that await them after high school.


As part of the district's strategic plan, 40 Developmental Assets will be implemented. All children should have 20 internal and 20 external assets, although research shows that most American students have less than 20 of these assets. Developmental Assets is about building meaningful, positive relationships with young people and getting every segment of the community involved in students' lives.


By the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, the district will have 100 mentors in place for students in grades kindergarten through 12th grade. These mentors will build personal relationships with students and provide guidance, encouragement and support for students who do not have family support at home and need someone who cares.


Students in kindergarten through 12th grade give back to their communities through a number of service learning activities. Elementary children have helped purchase playground equipment for special needs children and donated canned goods and staples to the local soup kitchen. Middle school students have collected items for the local animal shelters and Christmas toys for needy children. High school students have donated blood and participated in city-wide clean up efforts, learning what's important in life is what they do for others.


Although much is done to work with students to see them graduate, there are some who opt to get their GED rather than continue in school. The Pascagoula School District has a GED program in place for these students. Once a student leaves high school, the district also refers students to the Adult Learning Center where former students can also go for help in obtaining their GED.


Although the school district has a multitude of programs to help ensure student success, the most important and the most critical component for students is parental involvement. The school district is working to involve a large segment of parents in their child's education through PTO participation, parenting classes and a wide variety of school events. Research clearly shows the more parents are involved in their child's education, the more success that child achieves.


The Pascagoula School District commits to a standard of excellence that prepares students for productive lives by creating a culture that encourages and expects success, reaching Destination Graduation! and beyond.