Greenwood-Leflore school merger advances in Senate

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Mississippi lawmakers are moving toward consolidating the Greenwood and Leflore County school districts in July 2015.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 2448 on Wednesday, and the bill moves to the House for more work.

The state took over the Leflore County School District last year because of low scores on state tests, low graduation rates and bad financial management. The superintendent and all five school board members were removed, and a state-appointed conservator was put in charge.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said he believes consolidation will help the children in the troubled district.

“We’re robbing children of their future in the Leflore County School District,” Tollison said.

The consolidation bill originally proposed having a Greenwood-Leflore school board with three members appointed by the Greenwood mayor and city council and two members elected by Leflore County voters who live outside Greenwood.

At the request of Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, a majority of senators voted to create a board with five elected members.

“All of the school board members should be accountable to the people,” said Jordan, who is also a Greenwood City Council member.

Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, argued against Jordan’s proposal before it was adopted.

“The elected school board in Leflore County produced the dysfunctional system,” Bryan said. “What have the poor souls in Greenwood done? Now, they have suddenly lost control of the Greenwood School District.”

Eight senators, including Jordan, voted against the bill when it passed.

Bob Strebeck, conservator of the Leflore County schools, said in December that the district, with 2,800 students, had 541 employees. Although 266 of the employees were teachers, Strebeck said the district had classes that were crowded with too many students.

Lawmakers this session also are considering bills to merge four other sets of school districts: Winona and Montgomery County; Claiborne County and Jefferson County; Clarksdale and Coahoma County and Durant and Holmes County.

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