May 16, 2013 10:43:34 AM
Carl Smith - firstname.lastname@example.org
The entire seven-member Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure was set Wednesday after officials announced Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors President Orlando Trainer as its final member.
Starkville school board members elected Superintendent Lewis Holloway, board member Lee Brand and Stennis Center for Public Service Leadership Director Rex Buffington as its three-person delegation to the soon-to-be formed committee Tuesday. Officials also announced David Shaw, Mississippi State University's vice president for research and economic development, will serve as its representative. Oktibbeha County School District Conservator Margie Pulley and Mississippi Department of Education Interim Deputy State Superintendent Larry Drawdy round out the group.
"The committee understands how important our task is and how important this whole deal is. I'm just fortunate to be a part of this to help do what I think is best for our future," Trainer said. "Our future is in our hands, and the best thing to do now is listen (to community stakeholders) and look at the information. I think the parents in both districts will rise to the occasion. At the end of the day, we have to do what is the right thing for both sides. If we do that, then we're off to a good start."
Committee members held their first meeting Tuesday with Interim State Superintendent Lynn House and MDE staff to discuss the consolidation bill and issues surrounding the potential merger.
"We have to interpret it like I personally think you should interpret the Bible: don't add anything to it; don't take anything away from it; let it say what it says," Trainer said.
The commission is charged with delivering a consolidation report to legislators, the governor and MDE officials on or before March 1, 2014. The report is not binding to the merger process as the bill still calls for consolidation to occur July 1, 2015.
Before merging, legal issues stemming from the Civil Rights movement must be resolved. Both districts still operate under Department of Justice desegregation orders. Consolidation would require DOJ-approval.
Neither MDE, nor the school district, has formally requested exemption from the order, Holloway said, but such a move could take about 60 days.
"Really, the only thing we can do now is move forward and collect data (before a DOJ decision is made)," Trainer said. "Me, personally, I want to do a little research and gather that information. That way, when the decision comes, I have information to make a reasonable decision."
Holloway and Trainer both confirmed a second meeting is scheduled in June. Public hearings are expected throughout the process, Trainer said.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch