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December 06, 2009

A School District Rises UP:
See the Movie Trailer, Read the Story

students_pass_christian.jpgThe film trailer you are about to see is powerful. It may be one of the most moving and influential few minutes of this school year for you and your colleagues. Please share it with others. It is showing us about the power of thinking and the human spirit. “Minds of Mississippi: The Pass Christian Story” trailer is a prelude to a full length production that will be available for broadcast a few months into 2010 (five years out from Katrina), with funding from Thinking Foundation and hopefully other supporters.

Over the years, on average 70% of the children in “The Pass” (as the town is called) live in poverty. 85 % of the students and teachers lost everything in Katrina, but this diverse population is also the highest performing in the state. As of November 22, 2009, The Pass was awarded Federal “STAR” status, meaning that the performance of Pass students is comparable to the other highest performing systems in the country. 2009-Final-District-QDI.jpg

18 months after Katrina I visited Pass Christian, landfall for the storm on the Gulf Coast. The context for my visit was that The Pass had been using Thinking Maps as a foundation for growing and sustaining the quality of performance across their schools to Blue Ribbon status. I wanted to show support. I walked in the mud and on boards between the FEMA trailers that today still remain classrooms for displaced students and teachers.

See the film trailer and read the story online at the Thinking Foundation website.

I have spent lots of time working in under-resourced rural and urban schools, and since the late 1980’s I have done consulting work in Mississippi schools. I have seen around this country schools amidst economic deprivation that was systemic and generational, and the great courage of teachers, but never have I seen teachers working with such extraordinary clarity and sustained focus to respond to a communal disaster. They rose up.

sue_matheson.jpg During that visit, I also stepped into the cramped trailer from which Dr. Sue Matheson, the Pass Christian School Superintendent, and her leadership team, were leading a community of learners to excel beyond the expectations of anyone around them. We talked. I told Sue I would return.

Little did I know that last year I would return to be part of the filming of a documentary about Pass Christian, the story told only in part through this trailer. This is not just a “feel good”, isolated story of success as you can see by looking at the results from around the country and globe… all on this website. We have provided data and documentation from The Pass, along with writing and poetry by Suzanne Ishee, a middle school teacher in The Pass, all giving context to this documentary. Take a deep breath and look through these frames into a story that not only inspires us, but also offers us insights …

… into thinking as the foundation for learning.


David Hyerle

See the film trailer and read the story online at the Thinking Foundation website.