Some on Mississippi school board seek to run new district

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some members of Mississippi's state Board of Education want direct control over a statewide school district that will take charge of faltering local schools and districts.

The board members Thursday said they felt state Superintendent Carey Wright was cutting them out of the process to choose a superintendent for Mississippi's achievement school district, which was mandated last year by lawmakers. Other board members, though, said they believe Wright should oversee the school district, and after a discussion, board members agreed that lawyers should research the issue and advise board members later.

The achievement school district is an attempt to improve the academic performance of long-struggling schools. It could take over schools rated F by the state for two straight years, or any district rated F for two of three years. A school would remain under state control at least until it scores a C rating or better for five years.

There were 19 districts rated F following the 2015-2016 school year, and all could be eligible for a takeover in fall of 2018 if they fail again this school year. There are also individual F-rated schools outside of F-rated districts. But Wright said the achievement school district will not take over every eligible school and district

"There's no way in the world we could assert control over 19 districts," she said Thursday. "That's just not reasonable."

A 24-member planning committee is working on the details of how the district will work, and candidates to run the district have already applied. Interviews are supposed to be conducted in May and June, with a leader hired a year before the district will begin operations to allow for planning time.

State Board of Education members, including Johnny Franklin of Bolton and Charles McClelland of Jackson, said Thursday that they want to vet applicants for the leadership post, not just approve a nominee brought to them by Wright.

"There's a difference in approval and selection," McClelland said.

Franklin said he reads state law to require the leader to report directly to board members and not Wright.

"These are not my words, this is the law," Franklin said.

Other board members, though, said the district's superintendent should report to Wright.

Rep. Charles Busby, a Pascagoula Republican who drafted the law, said he hadn't considered the question deeply, but assumed Wright would oversee the district's leader.

"I guess I was thinking they would report through the superintendent to the board," Busby told The Associated Press in a later phone interview.


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