There’s a lot going on with Mississippi’s education system, and 2017 could be a year where these developing stories shift the future of the state’s schools.
Dustin Barnes/The Clarion-Ledger
Gov. Phil Bryant says his decision on whether to sign off on a state takeover of Jackson Public Schools should come within the next month.
In an appearance Thursday on the SuperTalk JT Williamson radio show, Bryant said his office was still reviewing material from both the state Department of Education and Jackson schools officials concerning the condition of the state’s second largest school district.
“The governor’s office, no matter who is governor, has a responsibility to do their review, to do the due diligence necessary to understand both sides of this argument,” Bryant said.
He indicated the district’s yet-to-be released official accountability rating for the 2017 school year will likely play a role in his decision.
The state Board of Education is expected to approve official letter grades for schools and districts at its Oct. 19 meeting.
“That’s one of the indicators, or triggers if you will, that would add to a declaration of an emergency,” Bryant said. “I think it would be prudent upon our part to wait at least until that day (Oct. 19.) That will go a long way in helping us make this decision.”
State statue empowers the state board to request a declaration of a state of emergency in districts that have received a failing rating for two consecutive years. The request can also be made for districts that have more than 50 percent of their schools rated as failing in any one year.
JPS received an F rating for the 2016 school. An attorney for the MDE said preliminary data show the district will receive the same grade for 2017.
On Sept. 14, the state Board of Education requested that Bryant declare a state of emergency for the school district. With the governor’s signature, the board could move forward with dissolving the JPS school board and replacing the district’s interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray with Margie Pulley, who previously served as conservator for Tunica County schools.
Jackson school and political leaders have opposed the move.
On Tuesday, Bryant met with members of the Hinds County delegation and Murray. The next day he met with Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba.
On SuperTalk, Bryant referenced that Lumumba acknowledged that the district had challenges.
“The somewhat frustrating part of this is this didn’t begin last week. This has been a problem for nearly a decade or more. These children in JPS deserve more,” he said.
Bryant said in his interview that JPS needs “transformational change” and indicated that he is hopeful for a sustainable solution.
“My position has been: I am going to do what I believe is best for the students. Not the administration. Not the faculty. Not anyone else. (But) what’s best for students, (for) their learning and safety environment in the city of Jackson.”
As governor, Bryant has signed six resolutions allowing the state to take control of struggling school districts.
The process: JPS takeover: What you need to know
In Mississippi, a three-step process is followed before school districts lose local control. First, the Commission on School Accreditation must determine a state of emergency exists. The state Board of Education then votes on the commission’s finding. If the board agrees that a state of emergency exists, they can ask for the governor’s approval to trigger a state takeover.
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