With programs and curricula that focus on college-readiness and career exploration, the region’s two school districts play a major role in maintaining a steady pipeline of talent to the region’s businesses. Access to an educated and qualified workforce is a pillar of the economic development efforts of the Oxford-Lafayette County community and north Mississippi as a whole.
Oxford and Lafayette County Schools Earn High Marks in Education
Education excellence prepares students for careers
“Providing group and individual experiences that stretch students' capabilities while supporting them through struggles will only ensure that our region is competitive in the days, months and years to come,” says Oxford School District Superintendent Brian Harvey.
Harvey says in 2018, his district began framing a new vision for the school system – defining what skills, traits and abilities students must possess to succeed in the 21st century workforce.
“Now more than ever, the OSD experience must not only provide for the acquisition of rigorous academic content, but it must also be more intentional about fostering critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity our young people need to thrive in this complex, rapidly changing world,” Harvey says. “The Oxford School District has a responsibility to connect workforce development with our school system, as the impact is direct and inevitable.”
In 2018, the Lafayette County School District passed a $24 million school bond referendum to build a new elementary school and make other facility improvements needed to accommodate unprecedented growth. At Lafayette, one campus houses all four of the county's schools, which helps the district retain a very tight community feel and environment. The district seeks to create a distinguished, innovative school community focused on excellence, opportunity and service.
To help make that connection between education and the workforce, the city school district partners with the county district to manage the Oxford-Lafayette School of Applied Technology, which offers elective vocational courses to students from both Oxford High School and Lafayette High School.
“Along with the Lafayette County School District we are transitioning some courses at the School of Applied Technology. We are also planning to increase the number of career and technical education courses that we offer on the campus of Oxford High School,” Harvey says.
Adam Pugh, superintendent of Lafayette County School District, says the addition of technical classes is vital to helping prepare students to immediately enter the workforce. The district even hosts a “reality fair” — a spin on a traditional career fair that gives students a look at how their educational choices can impact their quality of life.
“Students get a certain amount of money based on their grades and courses they take. They then use that money to pay their rent and car payment, and they get a taste of what it's like to work and pay bills,” Pugh says.
Pugh says the district works to give students a head start to college through programs such as a dual enrollment partnership with Northwest Mississippi Community College and by offering AP, both of which allow students to earn college credit while still in high school. In addition to courses in fields related to science, technology, engineering and math, Lafayette County Schools aim to develop well-rounded graduates by offering electives in languages.
“We have a large variety of courses and activities that we offer here because we want our students to be very well-rounded and have the opportunity to take a lot of different courses if they choose,” Pugh says. “We want to do everything that we can to prepare our students with the skills that they need to be successful — whether they choose to go straight into a career or whether they go to college. Our job every day is to prepare them for the choices they're going to make in the future.”