February 4, 2014 3:50:20 PM
State lawmakers removed all language specifically appointing Starkville School District Superintendent Lewis Holloway as the county school district's conservator on July 1 with new legislation this week.
As originally filed this term, both HB 833 and SB 2818 called for Holloway's early appointment and gave him the power to issue notes that would help finance school repairs in both districts before state-mandated consolidation in 2015. Now, the substitutes' language states Oktibbeha County School District shall remain under Mississippi Department of Education control until June 30, 2015, without explicitly calling for a new conservator.
Margie Pulley currently serves as OCSD's conservator.
Language surrounding future staffing was also changed after original legislation would have given Holloway, as OCSD's conservator, the power to renew and non-renew county school district employees' contracts. The Senate substitute states the Starkville School District Board of Trustees "shall be responsible for establishing the contracts" of teachers, principals and administrative staff for the 2015-2016 school year - the first year of operations under the unified system. OCSD's conservator shall consult with the school board about county employees' contracts, the legislation states.
The Senate's substitute added: "In order to prepare for the efficient staffing of the Starkville Consolidated School District, the conservator ... and the superintendent ... shall have full authority to non-renew the employment of any teacher, principal, clerical or administrative staff located within their respective school districts for the 2015-2016 school year."
The House substitute moved from the Education Committee to Ways and Means on Jan. 31 and was referred back to Education Monday. The other substitute entered the Senate system Tuesday.
Calls placed to Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, Rep. Gary Chism, R-Columbus, and Sen. Gary Jackson, R-French Camp, went unreturned. Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, was unavailable for comment but said he would meet with key figures of both House and Senate Education Committees.
Barker originally filed HB 833 and HB 716, last year's Starkville-Oktibbeha school merger bill. Both he and Chism serve on the House Education Committee. Chism, Ellis and Jackson represent portions of Oktibbeha County.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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