November 22, 2013 10:10:25 AM
Carl Smith - [email protected]
Oktibbeha County School District and Starkville School District are not expected to merge one year before state-mandated consolidation after discussions between the two systems' administrators fell well short of reaching a consensus.
OCSD Conservator Margie Pulley and SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway met for almost two hours Monday to discuss the pros and cons of such a move, Pulley told the Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure Thursday. The administrators could not reach a consensus on numerous issues surrounding an early consolidation.
Both agreed consolidation is best for all county students, but other factors -- the loss of transition time provided in the 2014-2015 academic year, how to finance needed physical improvements in both districts, the forgoing of a year waiver for accreditation, a lack of time to work with the Department of Justice on escaping desegregation orders and the reduced opportunity for legislative support -- makes a voluntary consolidation almost impossible.
State law also prevents Holloway from serving as both SSD's superintendent and OCSD's conservator. Holloway will lead the unified school district once it merges on July 1, 2015.
The commission investigated the matter after it was pitched during a recent public hearing. Although commission Chairman Larry Drawdy said the board was doing its due diligence, the likelihood of such a move was low from the onset. Even if the commission OK'd an early administrative merger, the SSD Board of Trustees would have to weigh in on the matter.
Holloway said he was in favor of allowing HB 716 to run its course and bring the two systems together in 2015. He and others fought for and received several provisions -- the creation of the consolidation committee and brief waivers from academic accountability scales, for example -- that made the forced merger more palatable, he said.
Commissioners will meet again at 9 a.m. on Dec. 10 at the Greensboro Center. Although a draft of the board's merger suggestions is not due to state lawmakers until March 1, commissioners previously said they would like to complete such a submission and have it ready for the start of the legislative session in January.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch