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City schools handle lunch payments, college credit


Bonnie Coblentz



STARKVILLE -- Starkville school officials on Tuesday changed the way high school students can pay for lunch and get dual credit for classes, and handled a long list of personnel issues before school starts Thursday. 


Four of the five school board members were present for the meeting; board president Walter Taylor was absent. 


The board approved an agreement between the Starkville School District and Official Payments Corporation to allow students or parents to pay for lunch in grades 9-12 using a debit or credit card. Assistant Superintendent Walter Gonsoulin explained that parents and students will have access to an online payment site. Transactions will cost $2.50 each, but a parent can pay on more than one child''s lunch account at the same time. 


"They can load up their child''s lunch" account at this Web site, Gonsoulin said. 


The system requires some rewiring of the existing data systems at the cafeterias across the school district. The change is being implemented first at the high school and next at Armstrong Middle School once the cafeteria there is expanded. It will follow in time at the district''s remaining schools. 


"I think it''s a step in the right direction," said board member Keith Coble. 


The board then approved a memorandum of understanding between the school district and East Mississippi Community College to allow dual enrollment and dual credit education. 


"They can now get credit at both places," Superintendent Judy Couey said. 


Classes may be offered at EMCC or at the high school, taught be staff of either school. Students who take these classes will get high school credit and college credit simultaneously 


"It''s really exciting because they can accumulate college credit" while in high school, Assistant Superintendent Beth Sewell said. 


Classes for those students scoring 21 or higher on the ACT will cost $120 for three-semester hours. Sewell said they are working on a similar arrangement with Mississippi State University. 


Couey said two days before school starts the district is not fully staffed, but all teaching positions are filled. She said there are always a lot of positions moving around as school begins. 


Attendance appears to be up in the high school and the middle school, with estimates not yet available at the other schools. Couey said some students always move away and others come into the district at the beginning of a school year. 


"We''re just going to have to have school start before we get that balance," she said. 


The board viewed a video titled "Believe" as the meeting came to a close. The video, produced by Broadcast Media Group of Starkville, was shown to teachers and district staff at the opening convocation Monday. The message told in the words of students and teachers encourages viewers to believe in the students, the teachers and the work being done in the district. 


"I think it sets the right tone, a positive tone," Coble said of the video. 


Couey said the district is getting some good attention because of the video and its message. 


"We know we''re in for a chaotic year because we''re building ... but I think we''re getting on track as a district," Couey said. 


The board went into closed session to discuss the transaction of business and a discussion regarding the prospective purchase, sale or lease of lands. They will meet again at noon Aug. 18 at the Greensboro Center.




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