Community, teachers 'rally' against district revamp

BOONEVILLE – Prentiss County students, parents and teachers from across the county held a street rally outside Monday evening’s Board of Education meeting to protest plans to restructure the district’s six schools beginning with the 2010-2011 school year.
The school board voted for the plan to merge schools – resulting in one high school, one middle school and one elementary school on the east and west sides of the county – during the April 21 meeting.
Since then groups from the various schools have held meetings and devised plans to resist the proposed changes.
About 75 people jammed the school board’s meeting room and outer area, with another hundred or more outside on the street marching with protest signs and giving board members visible evidence of their opposition.
More than half of the 42 people who had signed up to speak before the board actually offered comments.
Top concerns presented by parents included:
– Young children being bused long distances away from their homes to attend another school.
– Loss of optimum small teacher-student ratios in the classrooms.
– Children in a family having to attend different schools.
– High quality of education students enjoy under the present school structure.
– Details of the plans and savings that would result have not been thoroughly explained to the community.
– County residents should be able to vote on the issue.
While resisting the notion that any change could be beneficial, one speaker challenged board members to prove the proposed changes would improve the school district.
Board members Rickie Davis and Ronny Kesler had voted against the changes, and restated that the board had made a “hasty” decision with too little info.
However, board members Lisa Slack and Perry Walden provided financial and other data to support their contention that the proposed changes will improve the financial health and programs of schools in the district. Board member Steve Taylor chose to make few remarks at Monday’s meeting, though he continues to strongly support the changes.
Consultant Kermit Keenum, who developed the recommendations, told the group that he has the data to substantiate an estimate of $800,000-$900,000 in savings when the proposal is implemented.
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

 

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal