Legal hurdles challenge school consolidation

May 4, 2010 10:39:00 AM



STARKVILLE -- The Oktibbeha County school board learned Monday night that state-forced school district consolidation has some significant hurdles to overcome before it could combine the county school district with the Starkville School District. 


Julie Jordan, director of operations for the Mississippi School Board Association, spoke briefly to the board about a meeting Monday morning that she, Superintendent James Covington and Starkville School District Superintendent Judy Couey all attended, along with several other people. 


"The working group got together today to come up with ideas on how to do this," Jordan said of possible school district consolidation.  


Jordan, former Columbus Municipal School District board of trustees member, said there is a good bit of interest in consolidating school districts that are not performing well over time, but there are some legal challenges that must be addressed first. 


"There is no law requiring a school district to receive another school district," Jordan said. "It would take legislation in the next session" to provide for forced consolidation. 


Even if such legislation were passed, there would still be the challenge of election issues related to school districts that operate under an elected board merging with school districts that operate under an appointed board. 


"Everybody around the state needs to just breathe and recognize that there is nothing that is going to happen immediately," Jordan said. "There are lots of legal hurdles." 


She said recently, consolidations in other states have been forced over the issue of school district size. In Mississippi, the consolidations are being considered for under-performing districts. The Oktibbeha County School District has been recommended as one of the districts across the state that should merge with a neighboring district, in this case, the Starkville School District.