Governor approves OCSD takeover

From Press, Staff Reports

Gov. Phil Bryant has declared a state of emergency in the Oktibbeha County School District, authorizing the Mississippi Department of Education to take immediate corrective action.

The district’s four schools include West Oktibbeha County High in Maben. The others are West Oktibbeha County Elementary, Sturgis; East Oktibbeha County Elementary on Sixteenth Section Road, Starkville; and East Oktibbeha County High, Crawford.

“I have reviewed the findings by the Mississippi Department of Education and agree the current leadership in the Oktibbeha County School District is jeopardizing the learning environment,” Bryant said in a press statement. “This pattern cannot continue. The students and communities in that district deserve better.”

Bryant issued the declaration of emergency Friday in response to a resolution adopted Sept. 27 by the Mississippi Board of Education. The resolution requested a state of emergency be declared in Oktibbeha County School District pursuant to state law. The MBE was acting on a recommendation from the Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation.

“The Oktibbeha County School District faces many issues that jeopardize the safety, security and educational interests of the children enrolled in its schools,” stated a release on the MDE’s website. “The district is in violation of 29 of the 30 accreditation standards the Mississippi Department of Education reviewed. Most notably, the district has a history of poor student performance, and it has failed to report complete and accurate data on employee contracts, lists of staff, payroll reports and official board minutes.”

The district was listed on academic watch and received a “D” rating on the state’s “report cards,” which were released last month

District Superintendent James Covington has been replaced by an interim conservator, Jayne Sargent, who will operate the district temporarily until a full-time conservator takes over. The school board has also been disbanded.

Officials from the Mississippi Department of Education were to meet with the administration, faculty and staff of the Oktibbeha County district on Monday – followed by an evening meeting with parents and community leaders to communicate a plan of action to assist the district in meeting accreditation requirements.