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Land leases, graduation top Oktibbeha schools agenda


Bonnie Coblentz



Oktibbeha County School District officials set a minimum price they want for hunting and fishing leases on the school''s 16th Section land in a meeting where they also heard reports on student issues. 


All board members were present for Monday night''s meeting held at West Oktibbeha County High School in Maben. The board also heard state of the school reports from each of the school principals and heads of the district''s departments. 


At last month''s board meeting, the school board rejected a $6 an acre hunting and fishing lease because it was less than another one they accepted that night. Their district land manager sent the issue back to the board, suggesting they set a minimum to guide his lease negotiations. 


Board president Curtis Snell announced what he said the board should do, and with little discussion, they did what he said. Superintendent James Covington said different lease rates were charged in the past based on the quality of hunting or fishing available on the piece of land in question. 


The board chose not set a minimum lease price rather than take land quality into consideration when beginning negotiations. On Herman Bush''s motion and Charles Avant''s second, the board voted unanimously to charge a minimum of $12 an acre for hunting and fishing leases on 16th Section land. 


Proceeds of 16th Section land is held in an account that can only be used in certain ways as proscribed by state law. The board took advantage of one of those ways Monday night when they voted to transfer about $225,000 from 16th Section funds into the district maintenance account. Covington said the board previously approved this measure to balance the budget, but the board needed to approve the actual transfer. 


This transfer was made on Cynthia Ward''s motion and Avant''s second. It passed 5-0. 


Covington then gave the board brief overviews of student achievement, graduation rates and potential bus purchases. 


He said the district''s schools each completed at least three practice tests for the Mississippi Curriculum Tests set to begin today. Results on the practice tests showed improvement each time. 


"We''re moving in the right direction with our practice test scores, but (Tuesday) we''ll begin our real tests," Covington said. 


MCT tests were scheduled to begin last week, but Wednesday''s tornadoes postponed them. Covington also said he has not yet heard from the Mississippi Department of Education on what if any make-up days will be required and when they will be added to the schedule. 


Covington also spoke of the district''s graduation rate and corresponding drop-out rate. At West High, the current graduation rate is 53.9 percent, up from 46.1 percent the previous year. At East High, the current graduation rate is 56.3 percent, down from 61.3 percent the previous year. 


Covington spoke of the many things that affect the number of students who are counted as having graduated. The district has the goal of reaching an 85 percent graduation rate by 2014. 


"Things we''ve put into effect now should affect our drop rate and graduation rate," he said. 


The board is considering buying eight buses to update its aging transportation fleet. Covington is looking into purchasing four new buses, one for each school, and four late-model used buses. 


"As our fleet ages, we''re going to have to come up with creative ways to buy buses," Covington said. 


In addition to MCT test dates, other important dates are May 21 high school graduation at the Starkville Sportsplex. West High''s ceremony will be held at 11 a.m. and East High''s ceremony at 4 p.m. A completion program will be held for the combined elementary schools at 6 p.m. May 19, also at the Sportsplex. 


Before adjourning, the board went into closed session to discuss personnel matters, resignations and student concerns.




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