Pascagoula-Gautier School District

Governor's Award of Distinction

Building a bridge between K-12 students and the global workforce is a priority in the Pascagoula-Gautier School District (PGSD). It has become a constant reminder in all 19 of our schools, in the hallways and in all 675 classrooms. Beginning in 2015, the PGSD partnered with the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and three other school districts to hold a series of Business/Education Breakfast Summit meetings to discuss the skillset needed for students to transition successfully into the workforce.

After speaking with CEOs of local business and industry, educators were dismayed to find their students were lacking necessary skills – work ethic, punctuality, dressing well and interpersonal skills, (just to name a few), - traits industry leaders said they were seeking in prospective employees. To bridge that gap, the PGSD began a number of initiatives – Dress for Success Days for elementary and secondary students, Career Fairs, which brought in a number of professionals to speak to children about their chosen field, and The Path That Pays, a collaboration between the local Chamber and all four school districts for 7th-12th grade students and their parents after-hours which provided an opportunity for families to speak with a number of professionals who had found their passion in life. Jackson County became a National ACT WorkKeys Community which revealed if they had the skills necessary for a career path. Because of the PGSD’s formation of Career Pathways for secondary students in helping them find their passion in life at an earlier age, the district wanted solid data to form a rubric that students could follow so they could understand the character traits needed to help them obtain a successful career.

Supt. Wayne Rodolfich put together a small team of people to personally interview 100 business and industry leaders about the qualities they were seeking in prospective employees. The district sought the input from the Superintendent’s 60-member Student Advisory, who read the interviews and compiled the character traits. The interviews were compiled into a booklet in 2020 and given to Jackson County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Paige Roberts, who has a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. Roberts assessed the interviews, did an item analysis on the skillsets mentioned in each interview, and provided her findings in a rubric, ranking the character traits based on how many times a trait was mentioned in the interviews.

COVID-19 delayed work on the initiative, but in the fall of the 2020-2021 school year, the PGSD interview committee discussed the best way to share the information with all students and designed a huge poster, a silhouette of a professional with the skills listed in both English and Spanish, that hangs in the hallways at all 19 schools in the district. Smaller 11 x 17 posters were also produced in English and Spanish as a way for teachers to have candid conversations with students in each class. As an additional way to reach all students, the PGSD committee did a second set of interviews – with 1990-2013 alumni who graduated from the PGSD.

As the pandemic continued, interviews were done via phone to socially distance. Alumni from all walks of life, from lawyers and doctors to tug boat captains and welders across the nation and beyond, shared advice they would give high school students – advice they wished they would have known before going out into the world. Because of the young age of these alumni, high school students can better relate to the words of wisdom from these alumni. To better help students find their passion in life, the district has also implemented internships with business and industry so high school students can receive hands-on experience in a number of fields including the health industry, shipbuilding, food services and banking. Scholarships, jobs, certifications, college tuition and managerial positions are available to students participating in these internships.

Community Partners

Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Singing River Health System, Ingalls Shipbuilding, Chevron, Singing River Federal Credit Union, United Way of Jackson and George Counties, McDonalds.