In 2010, when Dr. Alvin Taylor was hired as the Superintendent for the Meridian Public School District in Mississippi, his goals were to look at student achievement, safe and orderly schools, and improving the graduation rate and overall accountability for the school district. Becoming involved in the SWIFT Center seemed a logical way to achieve these goals. Dr. Taylor was interviewed during the SWIFT Professional Learning Institute and had this to say:
“We are excited about initiating SWIFT into our district for a number of reasons. One is the cutting edge innovation that SWIFT brings, especially when you talk about the integration of academic instruction and behavioral instruction. In the past in education, academics and behavioral instruction were seen as two separate entities. With the SWIFT program, they are meshing academic and behavioral instruction, not as two separate initiatives, but as one entity. In addition to that, they’re doing the same thing with general education and special education. Again, in the past, they were completely segregated—general education and special education were separate. SWIFT is taking the approach that general education and special education should be seen as one—working together hand-in-hand for the success of all children, and we want to be a part of that.
The outcomes that we’re anticipating from the SWIFT program? Obviously student achievement, but not just that. We’re looking at strengthening our family and community relations—our teacher/student relationships and self-esteem amongst our students, our staff, our community. That’s what I see from SWIFT. And not just identifying ourselves through a test score, but through the whole education of the child—academically AND socially.
What scares me about being a SWIFT school? I won’t say fear. I know that there’s always going to be resistance to change. When you’re talking about being innovative, that’s been a thorn in the side of public education—being innovative. I see that as a challenge. It’s my job to be the fearless leader. So I won’t say I have fear, but I know it’s going to be a challenge to change the culture and mindset of our community and our educators. For instance, the concept of merging general education and special education into one unit—I can see the resistance already. But we’re up for the challenge.
We’re going to address that challenge because it’s my belief that most, if not 95% of educators, are in this for what’s best for the student, what’s best for children. And if we can communicate that effectively to them that it is not in the best interest of our special needs children—or our general education children—to be segregated, then it’s not in their best interest as educators. It’s not in our best interest to separate academics and behavioral instruction. If we want the whole school to be successful, then we have to treat the whole student, and I think SWIFT is taking a head first approach and we want to be a part of that change.
Equity in excellence for all. We’re not just looking for pockets of achievement; we want equitable achievement. To do that, we have to educate all of our children, and not just academically, but we need to educate them socially. And we have to strengthen our relationships not just with the students, but with our parents and our community. I think SWIFT is taking a great approach at addressing those needs.
Obviously, we can look at data to measure student achievement; but I don’t think achievement can all be assessed merely by test data. However, it’s obviously an important criteria. If I can see the kids coming into a school and they’re smiling and they’re waving and hugging their teachers, then I know SWIFT is working.
I don’t want SWIFT to be in just one or two of our schools. I want to push for full district implementation of SWIFT, so I’m a big cheerleader and fan of SWIFT. I believe in the model and we’re going to incorporate this throughout our district as soon as possible.”
-Dr. Alvin Taylor
Dr. Alvin Taylor is the superintendent of the Meridian Public School District in Meridian, Mississippi. Dr. Taylor received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Mississippi State University and his educational specialist degree from the University of North Alabama. He recently earned a doctorate in curriculum and instruction when he defended his dissertation in December 2010 and graduated in May 2011.