Barbour backs emergency call for Okolona schools

By NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Gov. Haley Barbour cleared the final hurdle to allow the state Department of Education to take over the Okolona School District.
Barbour declared Wednesday that a state of emergency exists in the district, in response to action by the state Board of Education last week. The state board requested the emergency declaration, citing the district’s severe financial struggles and poor academic performance, among other factors.
“I am convinced the existing conditions in the Okolona Municipal School District jeopardize the educational interests of the children enrolled there,” Barbour said.
With the governor’s action, the Okolona School Board will be dissolved and the superintendent will be terminated. The state board already has approved former Tupelo Superintendent Mike Vinson to run the district as conservator, essentially serving as superintendent and school board.
The conservatorship will begin Monday with a meeting of concerned parents and community members. Meanwhile, the community will have its own meeting tonight to discuss the process.
Parents, students and community members are being asked to attend a meeting at City Auditorium at 6 p.m.
“We’re putting on this forum so people can ask questions and hopefully get answers,” said Hal Spratt of Lending Hand Foundation, host for the meeting.
Spratt said outgoing Superintendent Gregory Stephens, who will remain in the system, will speak about what’s happening. Also, a group from North Panola will explain how its district has handled being placed under state control, a move that came in 2008.