Education

How Gulfport’s CAO will help education in Mississippi

The National Association of State Boards of Education selected John Kelly to its board. Kelly is the city of Gulfport’s chief administrative officer. He is also a member and former chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Education.
The National Association of State Boards of Education selected John Kelly to its board. Kelly is the city of Gulfport’s chief administrative officer. He is also a member and former chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Education. Mississippi Department of Education

City of Gulfport Chief Administrative Officer John Kelly said he has a full slate of ideas in mind when he begins his term on a national education board.

The National Association of State Boards of Education elected Kelly to serve on its board from 2017-19. Kelly will serve as chair-elect of the board in 2017 and chair in 2018.

Kelly is a member and former chairman of the Mississippi State Board of Education.

“This is a great honor. Being on the NASBE board will give me a greater platform to discuss important education issues,” he said.

Kelly will meet with education board leaders from other states while with NASBE. They’ll discuss relevant education issues on a national level, such as school policy, student privacy and education funding. Kelly said he planned to takes ideas gleaned from the meetings back to Mississippi.

“The board will give me the chance to review strategies and ideas, then bring them back here,” he said.

Ahead of his first meeting, Kelly said he had at least four issues he planned to discuss with the board.

“Data. I want to look at the data from advanced school districts and compare them with lower-achieving districts. Then we can use that data to drive instruction,” he said.

“I also believe we need to consider how we evaluate our teachers. What policies do we use?”

Education funding, which has driven a wedge between some legislators and educators in Mississippi, will be another topic Kelly said he would broach.

But he said increasing the reach of pre-K instruction will be a key priority.

“This is one of the most important things of all we can do for our kids,” he said. “We’ve seen its success in other states.”

Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, and Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, sponsored Senate Bill 2395, also known as the Early Learning Collaborative Act of 2013. It was the first time the state allocated funding for pre-K education, appropriating $3 million. This year, the Legislature approved an additional $4 million.

Kelly said despite controversy over education issues — including re-evaluation of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program, charter schools, the state’s accountability model, and frequent testing changes — the state is on the right path.

“I think when you look and see what we’ve done the last couple of years, we’re really going to see some positive results,” he said.

NASBE represents the country’s boards of education. The organization aims to “strengthen state leadership in education policy-making, advocate equality of access to educational opportunity, promote excellence in the education of all students, and ensure responsible lay governance of education,” according to its website.

“Now more than ever, states are playing a more robust role in determining how our nation educates its children, and state boards of education are central to this work,” NASBE president and CEO Kristen Amundson said.

Kelly has lived on the Coast for more than 40 years. He was appointed by Mayor Brent Warr and has served as chief administrative officer since January of 2007. He has kept the post through several mayors. Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes asked Kelly to serve in 2013.

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