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Mississippi - Indianola: Robert L. Merritt [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Robert Merritt in Indianola, Mississippi. Dent asks what the public school was like when Merritt took over as superintendent 5 years before the interview. Merritt states it was about 93% Black, now it is about 85% Black. Merritt believes the public schools have improved significantly, accounting for the shift in numbers. Merritt set up a program called School Effective Training Network (SETNet) which provided money to create effective school research. Important elements to this program include: creating an environment conducive to learning, maintaining high expectations, setting attainable goals, and continuously re-evaluating and then adjusting the learning process. They also attempt to work with key community leaders and run workshops. Merritt states that education and economic development go hand in hand. Merritt also discusses his efforts to improve voter registration and voting percentage. Merritt states that the percentage of students continuing to college is about 60%. Many students return to Indianola after college. Dent and Merritt discuss the controversy over leveling in Selma and Merritt states that Indianola groups their students heterogeneously under the same curriculum. There is special help for individual students and a gifted program. Merritt states that every one of his schools has a music program. The state of Mississippi recently cut back on funding significantly. Though many of the students at Merritt's schools come from poor families, he has managed to get a number of local businesses and churches to donate scholarship funds. He believes these are effective because they get the community involved and give students something to aspire to achieve. Merritt states that there are no specific courses on Black history or heritage but that they observe Black history month and try to work it into general lessons. Merritt states that the active nature of Indianola's active community has been vital to improving the school system.
African AmericansCivil rightsEconomicsEducationRace relations
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 153, Item 7, Side 1, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. Copyright Laws.