Dr. Mary Brown at Rotary

Dr. Mary Brown, right, superintendent of the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District, makes a point as she talks with Rotarians Larry

Griggs and Linda Toy following Brown’s talk Tuesday to the civic club.

Dr. Mary Brown, dealing with incidents in which one student brought a gun on campus and another to a football stadium, is emphasizing that both cases were dealt with quickly and resulted in no injuries.

The superintendent of the Greenwood Leflore Consolidated School District, however, says there’s only so much she can do to prevent such potentially dangerous situations from occurring.

“We have no control over what a child brings from off the street,” she told the Greenwood Rotary Club during a presentation Tuesday.

On Aug. 28, a male eighth grader at Greenwood Middle School was found with a loaded handgun by a security officer when the student arrived at school that morning. That student withdrew from the school and has since been formally expelled.

Last Friday, another armed male student, whose grade and school were not disclosed, was arrested at Bulldog Stadium, where Greenwood High School was preparing to play Cleveland Central. He was carrying what law-enforcement authorities described as a “pistol-type weapon” with an extended magazine capable of carrying 15 to 20 rounds of ammunition. The school district is awaiting a report from the arresting agency before deciding on what disciplinary action it will take against the student.

Brown complimented the response of the Greenwood and Leflore County lawmen for promptly defusing the situation, but she said Leflore County Sheriff Ricky Banks was mistaken when he told a Commonwealth reporter that the student “got through the fenced area” at the stadium.

She said she was at the game and the student “did not come into our stadium. He did not enter those gates. He was on the sidewalk, and the police actually chased him and apprehended him.”

The gun-related incidents, as well as an altercation at another football game between a school security officer and a female student, have complicated the start of the school year for the newly merged district.

Brown said, though, she is striving to keep herself and her administrative team focused on their mission to educate and unify the students as well as the community the district serves.

She reported that enrollment of the consolidated district, as of Tuesday, stood at 4,715, about the same as the combined enrollments last year of the two separate districts.

She said that “change has to happen” in the consolidated district in order to raise the schools’ academic achievement levels. Under Mississippi’s A-to-F accountability scale, last year one school received an A, five received a C, four received a D and one an  F. Although the 2019 grades won’t be out for another month, Brown said that based on recently reported test score results, she expects the overall grades will be similar to the previous year, although some schools may go up and others down

The only way to produce the improvement that is needed, Brown said, is to take a student-centered approach not only within the schools but within the community.

“If we don’t put kids first, we’re going to continue to get this,” she said, referring to the subpar accountability grades. “And if we continue to get this, we won’t be able to  have people come in who want to bring jobs into this community. And once our students actually graduate and leave, because they will leave, some of them won’t come back because they want better for their children.”

Angela Curry, a Rotarian who serves as executive director of the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation, said Brown “hit the nail on the head” in correlating job growth to public school quality.

“We will continue to improve our partnership with the consolidated school district,” Curry said, “because we do have the same goals in mind, and that’s to create an educated workforce. That will determine the success of this community.”

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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