- Increase student achievement for all students,
- Facilitate a deeper understanding of and engagement in participatory democracy,
- Promote positive cross-cultural relations.
This work grew out of an effort in McComb to build bridges across racial lines to advance community relations. The superintendent and community stakeholders recognized that moving forward required an understanding of McComb’s civil rights and labor history. The school district contracted with Teaching for Change to help weave lessons about civil rights and labor history into the curriculum, subject to approval by the Mississippi Department of Education. Meetings with teachers, community members, and ministers of all ages and races shaped the current curriculum.
The McComb School District, represented by Superintendent Therese Palmertree, also plays an active role in the Mississippi Civil Rights Education Commission, with representatives from the MSDE, the William Winter Institute, and the Fannie Lou Hamer Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. As a result of the Commission’s work, a new U.S. history framework was announced as referenced by Senate Bill 2718. McComb is taking a lead statewide in the implementation of this legislation.
As with any social change, the work involves the contribution of many groups and individuals. In 2009, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided a grant for professional development, evaluation, and documentation. This allowed the District to contract with a full time professional development specialist Gloria Stubbs, who has helped teachers to incorporate more interactive instruction and helped facilitate partnerships with community groups. McComb received a USDE Teaching American History grant which includes partnerships surrounding school districts, the University of Southern Mississippi, University of Mississippi-Oxford, and George Mason University.
The focus for 2011-2013 to continue this effort is driven by the overall goal to draw on McComb’s history and current resources to work collectively across racial lines for a better quality education for all McComb public school students and quality of life for all citizens. The four overarching intentions are that all of the work will contribute to increasing academic performance, particularly reading, writing, and critical thinking; promote active civic engagement; positively impact personal racial identity and race relations; and be part of a collaborative school district-community effort.
Oral histories of elders, taped by McComb High School students, make a valuable contribution to the preservation and understanding of local history. The interviews will become part of the USM Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage archive. Interviews can be viewed at a website designed by high school students: www.mccomblegacies.org. U.S. history course revised to cover a wider span of history; students playing active roles in course pilot. Local history tours with the support of community members. Young People’s Project leadership training program.
Stakeholders reported through interviews that there is increasing dialogue about race across racial lines. Open Source Leadership Institute identified positive impact on student achievement, particularly at the junior high school; scores for the school as a whole improved on state level assessments in reading and writing. MHS Alumni Gala honoring Mrs. Hilda Casin, 2011 MHS Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement honoree, served as a platform for intergenerational dialogue and mentoring.