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Mississippi Board of Education Could Move Forward With School Consolidation

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 16 Feb 2012 05:13pm | comments

The Mississippi Board of Education could vote to begin the process of consolidating two delta school districts as soon as today. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports that the consolidation could happen even if a consolidation bill in the state legislature fails to become law.

Today the state board of education could vote to consolidate two delta school districts, which could set a precedent for consolidating other failing districts around the state.

The board is looking at combining Drew and Sunflower school districts in Sunflower County.

Both school districts have struggled financial and academically and are currently under state control.

A bill to consolidate all three districts in the county is currently in the state legislature.

However, Larry Drawdy, who oversees the conservatorship process, says the board believes the districts can be consolidated even without legislation.

"Since we are operating both school districts, we believe we have got the authority to merge the two school districts. We are basically looking at administrative operations of the district and that is what we are looking at," Drawdy said.

Board member Claude Hartley says there are a lot of issues that would need to be ironed out before the districts can be combined.

"The tax rate. What to pay the superintendent. If they have strategic plans, do they match? There is policies that might clash. All of that can be worked out, none of that can't be worked out," Hartley said.

Mississippi has 152 school districts and consolidation has been discussed for years as a money saving technique, as well as a way to improve failing schools.

Board vice-president Wayne Gann believes consolidation should only be considered in situations where schools are consistently failing.

"I am opposed to ruining what few outstanding school districts we have across the state by arbitrarily making decision that would consolidate them that would damage those schools. I think it needs to be done very carefully on a case by case basis," Gann said.

If the board sets a precedent with the merger, it would open up the possibility of consolidation of other school districts currently under state control.

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