- Associated Press - Monday, September 22, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - State officials are preparing to return the Scott County school district to local control.

The state Board of Education voted Friday to start the process of setting up a new school board. The state will likely be ready to hand over the reins in June 2015, Chief School Performance Officer Pat Ross told the board Thursday.

He said by then, new school board elections can occur, board members can be trained, and they can hire a new superintendent.

The 4,200-student district will no longer have an elected superintendent after it emerges from state control. Former school board members are banned from seeking those offices ever again.

The state took over the district in February, saying former Superintendent Bingham Moncrief ruled through intimidation and flouted state rules. The former school board sought the intervention.

“Most of the issues we had there were governance issues, which have been resolved,” Ross said.

He said there are some state accreditation violations still being worked out. The district needs to get a clean audit and solve some special education problems.

Gov. Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency in Scott County in February. The 16-month period will be a very short trip through Mississippi’s conservatorship process. Most districts linger for at least three years.

Scott County was an unusual candidate for a takeover because of its B-rating - most takeover districts are in deep academic or financial distress. But the board recommended the takeover after finding the superintendent was violating state rules. Bryant initially rejected a request to declare a state of emergency, and relented only after the Board of Education changed policy to allow the state to seize control of a district without automatically limiting high school sports and extracurricular activities.

The state currently controls five districts - Aberdeen, Oktibbeha County, Leflore County, Claiborne County and Scott County. Besides Scott County Oktibbeha County will leave state control when it merges with Starkville next year.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jeffamy .

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