Working in public education can be a thankless and somewhat taxing job, but the efforts put forth by O’Bannon Elementary School recently have gained state and nation-wide recognition.
In the U.S. News & World Report’s first-ever rankings of public elementary schools, OBES, which serves students from Pre-K to sixth grade, placed among the top 30% of elementary schools in the state of Mississippi (#60) — making it a U.S. News Best Elementary School.
Western Line School District Superintendent Lawrence Hudson was informed of the ranking via an unexpected email from the U.S. News & World Report.
“In the Western Line School District from our school board, district administrators, and our dynamic principals, we set the bar high for our students’ academic success,” he stated. “This achievement is accredited to the dynamic leader of O’Bannon Elementary, Mr. James Johnson and his entire staff. We are extremely proud of their accomplishments.”
Ninth year OBES principal James Johnson, who began as the assistant principal in 2013 said, “We were very honored and pleased when we found out that O’Bannon Elementary was recognized for being one of the best, especially because it’s been a tough year.”
When it came to the criteria for being considered among the state and nation’s best elementary schools, Johnson said he believes student performance was the main basis and school culture and climate were also weighed.
Johnson also highlighted that by comparison, the percentage of OBES students who performed proficiently on the state’s MAAP (Mississippi Academic Assessment Program) assessments in the areas of Mathematics and English Language Arts was impressive.
According to the U.S. News & World Report, OBES’ student population is 533.
The report stated that of 533, 56% of students scored at or above the proficient level for math, and 43% scored at or above that level for reading.
Johnson attributed such success to being able to effectively and efficiently utilize all of the technology at OBES’s disposal once the shutdown due to COVID-19 ensued.
“One thing we were very proud of was how well virtual instruction went and our hybrid instruction which we used to really engage our students,” he said, noting the extensive technological training that took place with parents, students and teachers.
He pointed out that with the help of OBES faculty and staff, no instruction was not an option — if a student did not log in for virtual instruction, someone from the school was going to be sure to make contact with the parent or guardian.
OBES’s theme in 2020 was “Using Innovation and Creativity to Improve Student Learning Outcomes” and the result was being ranked among the best elementary schools in the state.
This year, OBES is looking to build on that.
Although the first nine weeks are behind it, when asked what OBES’s vision was for this academic year, Johnson’s response was, “To get an A rating.”
OBES is currently a “B” school as graded according to the Mississippi Department of Education’s accountability standards and was just a few points shy of an “A” Johnson said.
He added, “We have a lot of gaps to fill because of learning loss, but we believe we can get there.”
Hudson said OBES’s latest accomplishment is just an early highlight of WLSD’s vision.
He further stated, “I have challenged our principals to shoot beyond success in the Mississippi Delta, and the state of Mississippi; but let’s start aiming for national recognition. This is just the beginning of a long list of national and state accomplishments from our district and our great schools. Stay tuned.”