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Meridian Public Schools
Wile prepared for journey to future

By Staff
ANALYSIS  Fred Wile, president of the Meridian School Board believes the school district needs a focused game plan. "You can't attack every problem all at once," he said. Photo by Marianne Todd/The Meridian Star
By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
Sept. 23, 2001
Fred Wile, newly elected president of the Meridian School Board, says "pathfinder" describes the board's primary role.
Wile wants to schedule a day-long retreat for school board members, during which they would identify the board's role and establish its vision.
Three of the Meridian School Board's five members, including Wile, have served for a year or less. Board members are appointed by the mayor in five-year staggered terms.
The term of James Vance, past president of the board, expired in March, but Mayor John Robert Smith has not yet named a replacement. When that happens, the board will include four relatively new members.
Analyzing the data
Wile says board members bring their own experiences and observations to the process, but adds that "key pieces of information" should also be considered.
Wile named several recent reports on the school district that he believes will give the board some guidance:
Recommended Strategies for Growth in Meridian, a report done this year by the Grow Meridian Team, made up of Meridian residents with backgrounds in business, industry, health and education;
A summary of the Meridian Public School District released this year by the Committee for Instructional Excellence, made up of state educators and a researcher from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future; and
A public opinion survey on local schools conducted this year by Habib Bazyari, chairman of the Division of Business and Industry at Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus, for the Leadership Lauderdale Education Committee.
Recommendations
The Grow Meridian report recommends that the school district build new elementary schools to support neighborhood revitalization, develop a magnet school to complement area economic development, upgrade the physical condition of campuses and pursue a more positive public image.
The Committee for Instructional Excellence was composed of Charles L. Harrison, executive director of the University of Mississippi Advanced Education Center; David Sistrunk, superintendent of the Kosciusko School District; Philip Terrell, superintendent of Pass Christian School District; and Jon Snyder, senior researcher with the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.
The committee visited the district between January and July, and presented it's findings to the Meridian School Board last month.
The committee found that the school district's leadership is perceived to be ineffective; that the schools are not sufficiently focused on factors that would lead to success under the new school-based accountability system; and that the district must find ways to significantly upgrade its buildings.
Leadership Lauderdale's public opinion survey found that residents of the school district are supportive of teachers, but parental support and involvement is lacking.
Identifying vital issues
Wile's background
The owner of Southern Cast Products, a steel foundry in Marion, Wile became active in education first as a parent, then as a member of the Meridian Initiative, a group of area businessmen who came together several years ago to assist the school district in its search for a superintendent.
Last year, the group raised money in the business community to help pay for the school district's campaign in support of a bond issue to build new schools. Two attempts to pass the $33.5 million bond issue were rejected by voters.
Wile grew up in Southern California. He is a graduate of the University of California-Berkely. He and his wife, Sissie, have two grown children, both of whom attended Meridian public schools. Their daughter is Hailey Allin of Jackson. Their son, Daniel, is a sophomore at Stanford University.
Steve Gillespie is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3233, or e-mail him at sgillespie@themeridianstar.com.

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