Biloxi High School, principal in line for national honors

The Biloxi Public School District will receive two national awards next week, one naming Biloxi High School as a national blue ribbon winner and the second naming Principal Pamela Manners as one of the Top 6 principals in the country.

Biloxi High is being recognized for dramatic gains in state proficiency assessments despite having over 40% of its students considered “at-risk” and from disadvantaged backgrounds.

pmannersU.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings last month named Biloxi High and 286 other U.S. schools as No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon Schools. The award, one of the most prestigious education awards in the country, distinguishes and honors schools for helping students achieve at very high levels and for making significant progress in closing the achievement gap.

Manners is one of six principals nationally who will receive the Terrel H. Bell Award, an honor named for a former Secretary of Education and presented to school leaders who play a vital role in overcoming difficult circumstances.

“These awards validate our belief that Biloxi High School offers a quality education for students who embrace learning and also those students who are most challenging to teach; it’s a testament to the hard work by teachers, support staff, and administrators on that campus. We’re extremely proud of them all.” said Dr. Paul A. Tisdale, superintendent of Biloxi Public Schools.

“These awards would not be possible without supportive parents, a community that values education, and a school board committed to providing a quality education for all students. We’re certainly not perfect, and can do some things better, but it’s very nice to be recognized as part of an elite group that the United States Department of Education has determined is making a real difference in education.”

Biloxi High School — which has maintained the state’s top-rated Level 5 rating for five years – was recognized for having 95 percent of its students pass the statewide Algebra I test over the past three years, increasing to 98.7 percent in 2005-06, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In post-Katrina tests of reading comprehension and writing skills, Biloxi High students scored in the Top 10 in Mississippi and were more than 20 percentage points above the state average. In fact, over the past three years, more than 96 percent of Biloxi High students passed the informative writing tests, increasing to 987 percent in the wake of Katrina.

“These awards are all about the excellent work being done by our teachers and students,” said Principal Manners, who will be in the nation’s capital next week to receive the honors.

Manners has spent 20 years as an educator in the Biloxi School District. She taught at Michel for 7 years, receiving a 1992 US Department of Education Award for Innovative Curriculum for creating a “Law-Related Reading” course for 8th graders. She was a secondary curriculum coordinator for the district for three years, then assistant principal at Fernwood Junior High before becoming principal of Michel Junior High. In 2004 she became the principal of Biloxi High School, the first woman to hold that position since 1951.