LIBERTY — Blessings come in many sizes, but usually not quite this big.

Rep. Angela Cockerham of Magnolia presented the Amite County School board with a check for $250,000 at their regular meeting on Thursday.

Cockerham told the board she was able to secure the lump sum during the last legislative session, which follows $200,000 in funding she secured during the 2017 session.  

Cockerham said the contribution is not earmarked for anything in particular, only to support student success.

Board president Dr. Diane Cook said the school district is grateful for the funds and for the work Cockerham performed to secure them. She said the money will go a long way in supporting students and teachers throughout the district.

“This is really a nice surprise for the district,” Cook said. “We hope to use the funds to purchase supplies for our teachers and books for our students.

In other news, the board heard updates from two of the district’s three principals and the district technology coordinator.

Amite County Vocational-Technical Center director Augustus Russ said the school held an open house in October and it went well.

Parents were invited to attend the open house, where they received their childrens’ report cards. He said the school recorded a 25% attendance rate.

High school principal Neal Smith said his school started a communication program to alert parents of child absences and other goings-on. He said the high school sent out 164 phone calls to parents since the beginning of the term in addition to 448 outbound text messages in October.

He said enrollment at the high school is up to 435 students and average daily attendance is sitting at 94%.

Smith said the second round of benchmark testing resumed this week and will continue into next week. The first round took place at the beginning of the school year and the third round will be administered nearing the end of the year. Benchmark testing is used by instructors to identify areas of academic weakness among pupils.

He said a driving simulator was brought into the high school last week. The device simulates real-world situations of impaired driving and includes everything from marijuana and alcohol impairment to texting behind the wheel and sleep deprivation. He said students enjoyed the experience and learned a lot about driver safety.

Technology Coordinator Brandon Gordon said the issue of cybersecurity is as pertinent as ever and cited a recent attack in Lincoln County.

He said the National Guard is offering services to school districts throughout Mississippi, free of charge, in the wake of a summer punctuated by high-profile ransomware attacks on public entities. Gordon said the National Guard is performing network vulnerability scans at a rate of two to three districts per week and recommended allowing them to do the same for Amite County if the opportunity is presented.  

At the October meeting of the board, trustee Cindy Newman asked Gordon to update the district cybersecurity policy pertaining to the use of flash drives. Gordon said the updated policy requires users to only use flash drives for professional or educational purposes.

“You’re doing a great job,” trustee James Copeland said. “Keep up the good work.”

In other business, the board:

• Hired bus driver Melissa Finley, high school teacher Michelle Sandifer and JV head basketball coach Warren Hargrove.

• Approved a student transfer under special circumstances to the district of choice for Molly Temple.

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