Miss. can delay high-stakes teacher evaluations
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - The federal government has granted Mississippi permission to delay a year using evaluations to hire and fire teachers.
The decision was announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Education.
When the state won a waiver from federal education law in 2013, it promised local school boards would start using new state teacher evaluations in personnel decisions in 2015-2016.
Half of the evaluation system depends on student test scores. But school boards will decide which teachers they will retain for an additional year in spring 2016. Then, the evaluations will be using data from the first year of multistate tests geared to Common Core academic standards.
Mississippi Department of Education spokeswoman Patrice Guilfoyle says officials want another year of test data, waiting until 2017 before using evaluations to hire and fire.
Task force looks to cut Miss. prison population
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A task force that's trying to cut Mississippi's ballooning prison population has preliminarily agreed suggest several changes in how criminals are sentenced and released.
The group plans to present its recommendations to the 2014 Legislature. It's also looking at changes that would increase the amount of time some prisoners serve.
Still, the net effect would be to reduce the number of people in state custody, now more than 22,000. Mississippi expects to spend $338 million on the Department of Corrections this year, a number that has grown along with the prison population.
The proposals aim to cut time that low-level drug offenders and thieves spend in prison. For example, the task force suggests raising the threshold for felony theft to $1,000 from $500.
Renasant wrapping up M&F merger, branch closures
TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - The last six of nine planned branch closures will be completed by Monday as Renasant Bank's merger with M&F Bank if finalized.
On Friday, three former M&F Bank locations in Tupelo will close for good.
Three remaining branches in Kosciusko, Southaven and Birmingham, Ala., will close on Monday. All are former M&F Bank locations except Birmingham.
Renasant had earlier closed another branch in Tupelo as well as M&F's branches in Starkville and Grenada.
John Oxford, vice president of external affairs for Renasant, tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that M&F will be fully consolidated with Renasant, including systems, products and services by Monday's conversion deadline.
Oxford aldermen review adult business ordinance
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The city of Oxford is holding a public hearing on Dec. 17 on a new ordinance regulating adult businesses.
The Oxford Board of Aldermen reviewed a proposed ordinance this week.
The Oxford Eagle reports that when the city rewrote its land development codes in 2004, the original adult entertainment ordinance was inadvertently left out. That ordinance restricted adult entertainment business to highway business zones.
Adult entertainment businesses must not be located within 1,000 feet of single-family homes, churches, schools, day cares or parks. Oxford officials are trying to limit such businesses to two areas of the city.
Other restrictions would include no alcohol sales, opaque windows, no lewd physical contact and dancers must be on a stage that is at least 18 inches above the floor level.
Leland cracks down on blighted houses
LELAND, Miss. (AP) - The town of Leland is giving owners of dilapidated homes less time to decide what to do with them.
The board of aldermen this week voted to give owners of structures that are candidates for condemnation 15 days to produce a written agreement with a contractor stating that work would begin within 60 days.
If they fail to do so, officials say the property will be condemned and scheduled for demolition.
Mayor Kenny Thomas tells the Delta Democrat Times that during his time as mayor and an alderman, he has seen owners of blighted homes get multiple extensions and never fix them up.
Consent agreement reached with nonprofit group
OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (AP) - The chairwoman of the nonprofit Asian Americans for Change will repay $10,000 in personal compensation from AAC she was unable to document and the organization will pay a $2,000 fine in a consent agreement with the secretary of state's office.
The Sun Herald reports that the secretary of state's charity division found Gai Kaitlin Truong used the nonprofit's money to pay workers at her private, for-profit business and failed to justify at least part of her own nonprofit salary of $61,100 for 2012.
Truong admitted no wrongdoing.
As part of the agreement, Truong can no longer serve on the AAC board or as a supervisory employee. She can volunteer or work for AAC.
An attorney says Truong and the AAC wanted to avoid a costly and lengthy court case.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.