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Students to host Twitter town hall on consolidation


Carl Smith



Student journalists with The Jacket Buzz, Starkville High School's newspaper, will host a Twitter town hall event from 6-7 p.m. Tuesday that will focus on dialogue between teachers, administrators and pupils about the impending Oktibbeha County school merger. 


The event will seek discussion on recommendations presented so far by the Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure. The group was tasked by HB 716 to deliver its final recommendations to legislators by March 1. State-mandated consolidation will occur July 1, 2015. 


Tuesday's event will be the second such Twitter town hall on Oktibbeha County School District's and Starkville School District's upcoming merger. In November, Parents for Public Schools Starkville and the Greater Starkville Development Partnership moderated a discussion on the merger committee's work before a public hearing was held at the Greensboro Center. Dialogue from that event was presented to the consolidation committee the following day. 


The public can observe The Jacket Buzz by following its Twitter account, @SHSJacketBuzz, @PPSStarkville, @GSDPartnership and @MSCollegeTown. Questions can be submitted in advance to The Jacket Buzz's handle or by using the #stkcsd hashtag. 


Previously, SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway answered questions through the school system's Twitter account, @StarkvilleSD, as did commission member Rex Buffington. 


"When change comes to schools and communities, it's important for student journalists to be a source of accurate information for their peers. Journalists have to go where their audience is, and Twitter is where a lot of students get their news," said Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Director R.J. Morgan in a school release. "It's great to see these kids and their advisors working to frame the student discussion on such an important local issue in an innovative way." 


"Information and communication is so important throughout this consolidation process. We're happy to participate in another Twitter town hall, as we think it's just another avenue to share information and gain feedback," added GSDP CEO Jennifer Gregory. "It's imperative that the community understand and get behind the plan as it develops, and sharing in the conversation is something that we think will help us get there." 


Previously, consolidation committee members tentatively agreed upon a logistical plan that would preserve the county's two elementary schools, send its high school students into SSD and seek funding to construct a middle school campus. The merger committee is now looking at possibly retooling at least one county high school for elementary school use, while Mississippi State University is working on a plan that would construct a demonstration school for grades 6-7 on its campus.  


The university secured $1 million in a private donation for such construction, and Holloway said Tuesday it could raise an additional $6 million for the initiative. 


Language allowing OCSD to proceed with a reverse bond referendum could be added to HB 716, Holloway said, creating the potential for the county school system to gain an additional $10 million for capital improvements.  


A technical amendment is needed since OCSD does not have the legal authority to attempt such a move. As it stands, state law prevents one system from spending money on the other's needs. 


Funding sources are needed to tend to possible construction and required facility renovations to bring district campuses up to par for consolidation before the 2015 merger occurs.


Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch



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