Decision on school district consolidation in limbo - - Jackson, MS

Decision on school district consolidation in limbo

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By Ashley Conroy

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Governor Haley Barbour's Commission on Educational Structure met for the fifth time this year at the state capitol about school district consolidation.

After a nearly two hour meeting Monday, the consensus was that the commission needs more time to decide if consolidation is the answer.

The governor created the commission in an effort to reduce administrative costs and help failing school districts.

This debate has met opposition from concerned parents and citizens that consolidating districts will eliminate a school in it's entirety.

Commission member and member of the State Board of Education Hal Gates said the commission is struggling on how best to meet the governor's mandate.

"We have a mandate, that is to improve efficiency and improve student performance." Gates continued, "We're struggling, I think with how to go about meeting the mandate."

This recommendation was accompanied by an extensive research study by Augenblick, Palaich and Associates that would have consolidated 18 different districts in 16 different counties based on how the schools consistently ranked in performance levels.

Commission member and Chairman of the House Education Committee Cecil Brown considered this a bad idea.

"If you do that, you're going to have angry parents, angry administrators, angry teachers," Brown said.

Representative Brown thinks the commission can find a way to appease to those community members opposed to it.

"I'm really concerned that we have got to have buy-in from local communities. I don't want to cram consolidation down anybody's throat," said Brown.

The commission thoroughly went through six different recommendations that were narrowed down for this meeting.

Though the commission did not agree on everything, the consensus was that they needed more time.

"But it's not something that's going to happen overnight and it's not something that's going to save much money in the next year or so," Brown said.

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