/Mound Bayou school one of two in Delta to close as enrollment, funds dwindle

Mound Bayou school one of two in Delta to close as enrollment, funds dwindle

Nonprofit Mississippi News MOUND BAYOU — Due to declining enrollments, decreasing funds and diminishing teachers certified, two schools in Bolivar County will close starting in the academic year 2018-19. After accepting the superintendent’s cost-saving plan, the North Bolivar Consolidated Schools District board members voted to close the schools at their meeting this week. Mound Bayou stakeholders stated that closing their high school would be a major blow to the history of the historic community. “Almost immediately after the 1887 settlement got their first children and women, school was established in the mayor’s house. His sister was the first teacher. Eulah Peterson is the mayor of Mound Bayou. The district currently has five schools: a Shelby high school and middle school, a Duncan elementary school, and two Mound Bayou schools. I.T. divides the Mound Bayou schools into kindergarten through sixth grades. The Montgomery school is divided into seventh through twelveth grades at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School. The new plan was announced Monday night. John F. Kennedy Memorial high school and Shelby School (the middle-school in Shelby) will be closing. The Shelby middle school is home to approximately 159 students while the high school has 228 students. The Shelby high school will house all seventh-twelfth graders. Superintendent Maurice Smith stated that the school would be rebranded and given a new name. Brooks Elementary and I.T. will be the options for sixth graders. Montgomery. It is disheartening to think about these children having to travel up to Shelby to complete their 7th-12th grade years. They have very different dynamics. Peterson stated that there is a sense of pride in the two communities. Mound Bayou is often referred to as the first settlement in America to have been founded by freed slaves after the Civil War. It is described in town history as “the first true experiment of Black economic self-determination.” Mound Bayou was founded by “the founders of a place where Black people could show the world that they are capable.” Black people can govern themselves and run a town. We are capable of doing this. Jackie Lucas, a Mound bayou city board member, said that they have done this for 130 years. Smith had earlier explained to the packed meeting the financial status of the district. The district’s enrollment dropped from 1185, to 1089 since 2014 when it was consolidated. This, Smith said, has resulted in a loss of $750,000. Smith, who took over the position in 2017 said that the school’s balance was $747.448, which was “in the red” at end of academic year 2016-17. Smith stated that the district requires $3.5 million to repair its structural and system systems. Smith stated that all of the above was reviewed by an expert. Smith said, “And I don’t have to tell. If you go inside any of our buildings, then you will see that there are leaks. “We have foundation problems.” North Bolivar Consolidated will see a 3.5 percent reduction in state funding under the proposed educational formula. This would mean that the district would receive approximately $200,000 less than it would have received. Smith stated, “I have to deal with it.” The district currently spends the majority of its funding on personnel. While most districts spend between 70 and 80 percent of their budgets on personnel, North Bolivar Consolidated only spends around 95 percent. Smith stated that closing the schools will help the district save $175,000 on principal salaries. There are currently 15 empty classrooms at Shelby’s high school. Although the maintenance costs at John F. Kennedy memorial High School would be about one million dollars cheaper than the cost of Shelby’s high schools, Smith said that Shelby has more space than Mound Bayou. You don’t have enough space at Mound Bayou. You don’t have enough classroom, cafeteria, and gym space. Shelby has half of the cafeteria space that isn’t being used,” Smith stated. Broad Street High School students in Shelby were generally open to the idea. “I believe it will be better for our community. The schools are already small. Because we don’t have enough money, I believe it will work out. Tamariah Christian, a Broad Street High School junior, said that the food was not good and there were 15 empty classrooms. “It shouldn’t be like this,” she added. Representatives from Shelby, who merged the district with Mound Bayou and Shelby in 2014, have assumed control of the board. Two members are from Mound bayou and three from Shelby. Many Mound Bayou students, stakeholders and others saw this as an underrepresentation of them by a governing board that made a decision that would endanger their iconic community identity. After the meeting, several Mound Bayou high-schoolers stated that they would transfer to Cleveland Central High School and then attend school in Shelby. Zariel Bel, a sophomore at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, said, “There’s always had a friendly rivalry. But it’s now an honest rivalry because you’re taking out the friendliness from it.” “You are forcing us to live together. “You’re forcing us together on a daily basis. That’s not going well because there’s always tension.”