State Board of Education seeks Mississippi district takeover of Noxubee schools

Published 6:35 pm Thursday, July 19, 2018

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Disregarding claims that local officials can resolve a financial crisis without state intervention, Mississippi’s state Board of Education on Thursday asked Gov. Phil Bryant to approve a state takeover of a rural school district.

Board members voted to ask Bryant to declare a state of emergency in the Noxubee County district. That would remove the current superintendent and abolish the school board, allowing the Mississippi Department of Education to appoint an interim superintendent who would run the district without input from a local school board.

“Gov. Bryant will carefully review the request before making a decision,” spokesman Clay Chandler wrote in an email. “As always, his first concern is doing what is best for students.”

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If Bryant approves a takeover, the board will name Rodriguez Broadnax as interim superintendent. The board also approved loaning up to $2.5 million to the district.

Bryant rejected the last takeover request, which involved the Jackson school district. Instead, he backed a plan where community groups would help the district improve.

The Noxubee County school district requested an emergency state loan in June, saying it feared it would have trouble making payroll. Such a loan requires the governor to declare a state of emergency. Projections provided to the state show the district could be $2 million short by December. But on Thursday, local school board President Albert Williams withdrew that request, saying the district would cut employees to balance its budget.

Superintendent Roger Liddell argued the F-rated district’s academic results are improving. The state had considered taking over Noxubee County last year and placing it inside a new achievement school district aimed at improving academic performance. That process stalled, though, when the state never located a superintendent to lead the achievement district.

“It just seems like there’s a target on Noxubee County’s back. That’s unfair,” Liddell said. “It almost seems like the state department’s point of view is, ‘We want to take over Noxubee County no matter what.'”

State school board members said they don’t believe the 1,600-student district can manage financial problems.

“I don’t want to sound like your mother, but it’s your responsibility as a board member to know about the financial stability of your school district,” said state school board President Rosemary Aultman.

Board members say the state’s investigation into Noxubee County also found too many other problems besides financial issues.
The state currently controls the Leflore County and Tunica County districts.