Legislation pending to merge school districts

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Legislation is alive that would merge school districts in two Northeast Mississippi counties.
On Tuesday, the Senate Education Committee passed legislation to merge the Clay County district into the West Point district. And legislation is pending before the House Education Committee to merge the Oktibbeha County district with the Starkville district.
Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said the Clay County district now has about 125 students in a kindergarten through sixth–grade school. The older students already go to school in West Point.
He said the district spends about 15 percent of its total budget – more than $300,00 annually – on administration compared to about 4 percent for the average district.
Tollison said he hopes to work with the local people in Clay County and West Point to decide how the governing board for the merged district would be selected – how many would be appointed by the West Point Board of Aldermen and how many would be elected.
Rep. Tyrone Ellis, D-Starkville, who also represents parts of Clay County, said it was time for the mergers in both counties because of the small size of both county school districts.
He said because of the size of the districts, the students are missing out on class offerings and opportunities.
“It is the pink elephant in the room, and a giraffe is sitting next to it,” he said. He said “there is no way to justify” the costs in such small districts.
The Oktibbeha District has about 950 students.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com