Scott schools dodge takeover as officials quit
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Scott County school system won't be taken over by the state after the school board and superintendent agreed to resign.
The school board members offered their resignations at a meeting Monday. Superintendent Bingham Moncrief agreed to resign Wednesday, said Nicole Webb, Gov. Phil Bryant's spokeswoman. The resignations are effective Feb. 28.
Bryant is expected to name new school board members, who in turn will name a new superintendent. Webb said Thursday that special elections for a new school board and superintendent will be set later. County school board members usually serve staggered six-year terms, while elected superintendents serve for four years.
The officials quit after the state Board of Education asked last week for Bryant to declare a state of emergency. Normally, the governor signs those papers, the superintendent and school board are removed from office and the state Board of Education appoints a conservator to run the district.
But Bryant stalled much longer than normal on signing the papers, making it clear that that someone was trying to broker a behind-the-scenes settlement. That was in part motivated by the concern that district sports teams and extracurricular activities would be barred from competing for state championships if the district was taken over.
Bryant said in a written statement that the mass resignations protect "the interests of students."
"However, let me be perfectly clear: If the superintendent or the board take any improper or retaliatory action before the effective date of their resignations, the only option will be immediate takeover of the district," he said.
The Scott County Central girls basketball team is the defending 2A state champion. It's led by Victoria Vivians, Mississippi's all-time leading scorer in girls high school basketball.
The 4,200-student district was an unusual candidate for a takeover because of its B-rating. Most takeover districts are in deep academic or financial distress.
However, two state reports issued by the Mississippi Department of Education found that Moncrief ruled through intimidation, flouting state rules. For example, an investigation found that when state evaluators made their first visit, Scott County hid a school bus that used ropes to secure wheelchairs. The state also said Moncrief hired people who lacked required licenses, paid differing salaries to non-teachers that were "arbitrary," and failed to tell state authorities about allegations that a Scott Central student was physically abused.
The school board and Moncrief were deeply split. Board members asked for a state takeover, even if it cost them their positions.
Lawmakers who represent the county had recently introduced legislation allowing extracurricular activities to continue. The House rejected such an effort Thursday, with some members saying Rep. Tom Miles, D-Forest, was trying to secure preferential treatment for Vivians.
Follow Jeff Amy at http://twitter.com/jeffamy
Get 10 free stories, e-newsletters, and more!
- Principal at Northridge High School
- Tuscaloosa City Schools, Tuscaloosa, AL
- Accomack County Public Schools, Accomac, VA
- High School Principal
- Harrisonburg City Public Schools, VA
- Ridgefield Public Schools, Ridgefield, CT
- Principal, Niwot High School
- St. Vrain Valley School District, CO