The people of Jackson deserve to know how their public schools perform and what goes on behind closed doors. The successful cities of Mississippi have strong public school systems. The Mayors and the communities are often involved in those public schools. Unfortunately, such has not been the case in Jackson. Too many Mayors treated Jackson Public Schools as a football on a toss-dive play: hand the ball off to the school board appointee and let him worry about making some yardage. Such attitudes meant leadership was defined by escaping blame instead of actually leading.
The school board was untouchable since its structure guarantees there is almost no accountability. The City Council appoints the members but once they are on the board, they don’t have to answer to anyone. The business community is blown off, parents are pushed away, and everyone else be damned. Citizens in other school districts have some input through elected superintendents or elected school boards who then appoint superintendents. However, Jackson endured the worst of all possible worlds: appointed school board members appointing the superintendent. Leadership is thus one or two layers removed from the public it is supposed to serve.
The result is that the Jackson Public Schools District became disconnected from the community. Although education is probably the leading factor for families making decisions on where to live, Jackson’s politicians abdicated their responsibilities as community leaders and let JPS wither on the vine – and wither it did. Nothing was said about performance or how things were run – it was someone else’s problem. Business suffered, crime grew, and families fled.
JJ said no to this status quo and first started publishing the record of JPS. Such coverage included publishing graduation rates, schools ratings, audits, bond issues, and fees paid to friends of the high and mighty. Numbers were crunched and analyzed. Disturbing patterns emerged that showed how bad the picture really was at JPS: 66% of JPS schools and 88% of JPS middle and high schools had a rating of D or F in 2012. Jacksonians took notice and started to give tips and complaints to this website. There was a hunger for this type of information and a need for the truth.