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franklin county times

Pierce takes personal interest in education

By By Terry R. Cassreino / assistant managing editor
Oct. 24, 2004
Days after a sliver of steel injured Randy Pierce's eye while working a construction job, the Leakesville native sat down with his wife and talked about their future.
No more construction jobs like the one in which he was injured. No more work on offshore oil rigs. If Pierce was going to do anything else, they decided, he would have to go to college.
So, on that day in March 1984, Pierce and his wife outlined three goals: He would go to college first, his wife would go next and then he would work on his dream of earning a law degree.
Today, Pierce, 40, is a successful attorney in Leakesville. He also is serving his second term as a Democrat in the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he chairs the House Education Committee.
Pierce goes by the nickname "Bubba." But he is nothing at all like the stereotypical, backwoods country bumpkin "Bubba" that people often refer to when ridiculing or poking fun at Mississippi.
Pierce is intensely devoted to his family, his profession and his job in the Mississippi Legislature. In fact, Pierce already is preparing for the 2005 Legislature that opens in January.
Session approaches
Last week, Pierce held one in a series of committee meetings in Jackson in advance of the 2005 Legislature. That meeting followed visits he and other committee members made this month to schools across the state.
The group visited six schools, three rated among the best in the state and three rated among the lowest. The goal was simple: Observe first-hand what schools are doing to improve their performance.
One stop was at T.J. Harris Elementary School in Meridian, which was formed last month when two other schools Harris Upper Elementary and West End Elementary combined into one.
West End was rated a Level 1, or low performing, school; it was the lowest-rated school in the Meridian Public School District. Despite that, Pierce said, he walked away from his visit upbeat.
Pierce was impressed with Meridian School Superintendent Sylvia Autry, West End Principal Owida Roberts who now is T.J. Harris' co-principal and several teachers he and other committee members met.
The key to success, he believes, is for low rated schools to consider adopting programs that other, higher rated schools have found successful proposals that likely wouldn't require legislation.
Successful programs
For example, one school in Leland holds Saturday sessions in which they teach parents how to teach their children. And one in Noxubee County involves grandparents in their grandchildren's education.
Besides that, Pierce said, his committee will be ready in January to tackle any necessary education legislation.
Pierce brushed aside charges from other legislators that his highly visible efforts, including a speech last summer at the Neshoba County Fair, are warmups to a run for statewide office in 2007.
While he might make a run, he said, all of his work for education comes from the heart. Pierce believes in public education and thinks children should be challenged something that didn't happen to him.
When he went to take the ACT, he said, "I was told Did you know that was for college-bound kids?' The message I got was that was not for me."
So, he said, it's irrelevant when people question his motivation.
Terry R. Cassreino is assistant managing editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3232, or e-mail tcassreino@themeridianstar.com.

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