By Russell Hood The Webster Progress-Times
The Webster County School Board has honored three state representatives for their legislative service to the school system in the aftermath of last year’s tornado. Board President Bobby McMullen presented plaques to Reps. Jim Beckett (District 23), Joey Hood (District 35) and Bobby Howell (District 46) on May 8. The School Board recognized them at its meeting last week for “dedicated and relentless legislative service to the Webster County School District.” McMullen and the board thanked the legislators for working hard to help the district after the tornado of April 2011 that devastated East Webster High School’s campus in Cumberland. Hood, in a legislative update released this week (see column inside), reported that the county school district received a $500,000 appropriation in a House bill during the Legislature’s 2012 regular session, which ended May 3. The district will use the funding to offset costs incurred by the tornado. Rebuilding EWHS “This $500,000 appropriation would not have been possible without the assistance of our local elected officials, including Superintendent Jack Treloar, the Webster County School Board and the Webster County Board of Supervisors,” Hood wrote. ‘Through combined efforts Reps. Jim Beckett, Bobby Howell and myself worked with House and Senate leadership to obtain this appropriation for Webster County in House Bill 1593 (funding for K-12 education),” Hood added. “I am honored to represent Webster County and proud that the citizens in Webster County will be able to use this money to help rebuild East Webster High School.” Treloar said during the meeting that the $500,000 allocation “will take care of all our needs” in giving the district relief from the tornado. Board member Keith Hudspeth (District 5) said, “It will keep us from the brink of being insolvent.” The district will use the funding to repay its 12.5 percent share of financial assistance received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency will repay the other half of the required 25 percent match. ‘Group Effort’ Treloar said the Board of Supervisors helped the district in its endeavor of seeking assistance from local legislators as well as congressman. All five supervisors were at last week’s School Board meeting. On Jan. 20, representatives from the offices of Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker, and Congressman Alan Nunnelee, as well of representatives of MEMA, Hood, the School Board and H2O Partners met with supervisors, according to minutes of the county board. The purpose of the meeting was to make the federal and state offices and officials aware of the need for more financial support and the importance of the support to be in a timely manner for the county to continue to recover from the tornado. Additionally, Treloar and WCSD administrator James Mason met with supervisors on Jan. 31 about the rebuilding of EWHS and storm damage financing, records show. “We started this as a group effort,” said Hood, adding that he was proud of Webster County’s leaders. He also thanked WCSD Business Manger Heidi Young for her help. Young is the school district’s designated agent for the purpose of obtaining and administering federal financial disaster assistance. Mason was also thanked for coordinating paperwork/payments and related work with FEMA and insurance companies for disaster-related matters. This includes restoration of East Webster’s main campus in Cumberland and FEMA-funded repairs to the temporary campus at the former Wood College in Mathiston. Answered Prayers Supervisor Paul Crowley (District 4) commented on how blessed the area has been in the last 12 months with the progress and support seen since the tornado. “I think the praise goes to above,” he said. The Board of Supervisors has also struggled, he said, apparently referring to financing the county’s share of the cost of debris cleanup after the tornado. “We’ve seen one answered prayer after another,” said Crowley. “We’re all still together on this.” Treloar also commended the School Board, saying it has persevered and made wise decisions regarding the EHWS rebuilding project. McMullen, later in the meeting, said, “We have seen how resilient we can be.” Groundbreaking for East Webster High’s new school building is set for 2 p.m. Friday in Cumberland. Panola Construction of Batesville is the contractor.