January 25, 2013 11:57:28 AM
Superintendent Lewis Holloway and three Starkville School District trustees are meeting with members of the House Education Committee in Jackson today to discuss a Mississippi House bill calling for the consolidation of the Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts.
Officials with the SSD were notified of the bill late Thursday afternoon, when they were contacted and asked to come to Jackson Friday for the 10:30 a.m. meeting.
SSD Board President Keith Coble, and trustees Lee Brand and Eddie Myles are accompanying Holloway.
"We just got called yesterday," Coble said. "I am not sure if we are even completely aware of what they want to accomplish at this point. I wish we were a little more knowledgeable of what we are going into."
The bill, filed by State Rep. Toby Barker, affects only Starkville and Oktibbeha County and calls for the consolidation of the districts by Sept. 1. Five new members would be elected to a board of trustees in November, and a new superintendent would be appointed to serve as the district's chief administrator.
The Starkville School District appoints all of its trustees except for one, who represents the portion of the district that stretches beyond the city limits.
"The county has had elected board members, and look what happened there," Holloway said.
Barker, who represents Forrest and Lamar counties, did not return calls as of press time.
The Oktibbeha County School District is currently unaccredited and was placed under state control last year due to its poor performance. Prior to the takeover, the Mississippi Department of Education placed the district on academic watch after giving it a "D" grade for consecutive years.
"Basically, they are saying, 'We want to pair a strong district with a district that is failing; it just makes sense,'" Holloway said. "But they wipe out our school board, they wipe out the superintendent's position. We just don't think wiping out our district, just because we are succeeding, is anything fair."
Starkville received a successful accountability rating this year but was still only granted a "C," missing a "B" by a handful of points.
The SSD Board of Trustees briefly discussed the idea of consolidation at a meeting in November after Myles brought the matter up when discussing the allowance of transfers from OCSD, but no consensus or stance was established on how the board felt about consolidation.
In Novemember, Holloway said consolidation is "absolutely possible" in the district, but that does not necessarily mean that is the right path to pursue.
Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer has been an outspoken proponent for examining the option of consolidation.
Trainer was at the board meeting when consolidation was brought up. Afterwards, he said he felt like having SSD absorb the OCSD's assets and liabilities and administering education would be a workable option.
"What would be a great expenditure, instead of paying a conservator all this money, we could just have given it to Holloway and the SSD for them to come up with some workable solutions, because they have skin in the game," Trainer said. "That state department is concerned, but they have no skin in the game. They want to make this work, but at the end of the day, they go back to Jackson."
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