/Fate of Noxubee County Schools rests with Gov Bryant

Fate of Noxubee County Schools rests with Gov Bryant

Mississippi News Nonprofit It is up to Gov. Phil Bryant will decide if a 1,585-student Mississippi district school district will be takenover by the state. Due to concerns about the district’s educational and financial practices, the State Board of Education declared an emergency in the Noxubee Country School District. The Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation had already declared an emergency situation that could endanger students a day earlier. This decision is based on the findings of an investigation by the Mississippi Department of Education that found Noxubee in violation of 81% of the state’s accreditation standards, which all public schools must comply with. Special Assistant Attorney General Erin Meyer stated that “The Noxubee county School District has failed it students.” “The state cannot help the district function,” the audit stated. It cited issues with the reporting of data to state, which allowed students to graduate without meeting graduation requirements and had unlicensed teachers. Last October, the district received its second consecutive F rating. Roger Liddell, Noxubee superintendent, stated that he accepted the audit’s findings but did not agree with them all at Thursday’s meeting. Liddell said, “The picture being painted today looks like it’s in a third-world country.” “But there are a lot of Things in Noxubee Country that are Going Right.” Liddell stated to the board that he believes the district has a target. Last November, the state recommended that the district join the Achievement School District. The MDE has yet not appointed a leader to the state-run district. This is why it didn’t happen. District officials received the report on July 13th, a few days before they had to appear before the commission. The investigative audit was conducted from June 25 through July 3. Liddell stated that a takeover is not something that should be done in a matter of hours. Although Liddell claimed that his district is making progress in education improvement, board members and MDE officials expressed concerns about Noxubee’s finances. Felicia Gavin, MDE Chief Financial Officer, stated that the department believes that the district won’t be able make payroll or fulfill other financial obligations over the next few months. Gavin received a request for financial assistance from the district. This led to the audit. Albert Williams, the president of the Noxubee County School Board, told the board that he would like to cancel the request for financial assistance. The district was also prepared to lay off non-instructional staff to be able make payroll in future. The board members were skeptical about this solution and told Noxubee staff that it was their responsibility to maintain a good handle on the district’s finances and understand what was happening. Sean Suggs, a board member, asked how you can get to the point where you don’t know where your next dollar is coming. Declaring a state of emergency by the governor would allow the state’s placement of Noxubee under the “District of Transformation”. Since 1996, 19 times have been taken over by the state. The conservatorship currently covers the Leflore County Schools District and Tunica County Schools District. The state board can replace the local school board, and members may appoint an interim chief superintendent. Bryant has no time frame to make a decision. However, if Bryant does decide to declare a state-of-emergency, Noxubee will have an interim administrator until the district earns an accountability rating of C or higher for five consecutive years. Bryant spokesperson Clay Chandler stated that “Gov. Bryant will review the request carefully before making a decision. His first concern is always to do what is best for students.” After they had finished their executive session, the board announced that George Gilreath would be serving as interim superintendent. Rodriguez Broadnax would act as interim superintendent. This will only be effective if the emergency declaration is made. Liddell stated that “it is our belief” that Noxubee County’s students cannot be cared for by anyone other than Noxubee County’s leaders and teachers. “If we’re taken over it will be detrimental to the community.”