- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The state Board of Education asked Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday to approve a takeover of Scott County schools.

Bryant must declare an emergency before officials can appoint a conservator, deposing the current superintendent and school board. Spokeswoman Nicole Webb said the governor would review the request. The board plans to appoint former Okolona conservator Mike Vinson.

The 4,200-student district rates “B” under the state’s grading system, but is split by conflict between the school board and the superintendent. Both school board members and the superintendent are elected.

“The superintendent and the board are dysfunctional and the safety and educational interests are being compromised, we felt,” state School Board Chairman Wayne Gann said after a vote held in a closed meeting.

Two state reports allege Superintendent Bingham Moncrief rules through intimidation, flouting state rules. For example, an investigation found Scott County hid a school bus that was using ropes to secure wheelchairs from state evaluators on their first visit. Moncrief said appropriate straps were on backorder and the problem has been fixed. The state also said Moncrief hired people who weren’t licensed for positions, and paid differing salaries to non-teachers that were “arbitrary.”

The reports also say Moncrief failed to tell state authorities about allegations that a Scott Central student was physically abused; that nude photos of a teacher were circulating at Morton High School; and that a teacher from the high school was having an inappropriate relationship with a student.

The state also said the district has failed to investigate who took a letter that a resident had mailed to the school board, smeared it with feces, and sent it back to the resident.

The sheriff’s department is investigating, and seized a copy machine from the district’s central office as part of its inquiry.

Moncrief said a small group of enemies has a vendetta against him. He pleaded for a full hearing to refute the claims.

Unusually, board members supported the takeover. They asked the state not to abolish the board, but school board President Locord Wilson said Moncrief is such a problem that she was willing to sacrifice her own position.

A takeover means the district would lose accreditation. Competition in sports and other extracurricular activities would be limited - the Scott Central girls’ basketball team led by star Victoria Vivians wouldn’t be able to defend its state championship.

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Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy

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