Parents take Prentiss School Board to court

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

JUMPERTOWN – Families in the Jumpertown community are resisting a school board plan to eliminate high school grades in the coming year by filing a lawsuit and asking for a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction.
The action was filed in Prentiss County Circuit Court last week on behalf of 115 plaintiffs who are parents of Jumpertown students and the students themselves, said Booneville attorney Daniel Tucker.
The lawsuit, which is one side of a legal argument, appeals a decision of the Prentiss County School Board to eliminate grades 9-12 in the fall of 2010 at Jumpertown Attendance Center, also known as Jumpertown High School, which currently has grades K-12.
A reorganization plan for the school district passed at a Jan. 20 special school board meeting calls for a restructuring in stages, with grades 9-12 being eliminated at Jumpertown High School beginning in the fall, and the campus retaining grades K-8.
The next phase, in the 2011-2012 school year, is for Jumpertown grades 7-8 to be eliminated. The final structure would be Jumpertown, Hills Chapel and Marietta having grades K-6; Wheeler and Thrasher retaining grades K-12; and New Site changing from grades 9-12 to grades 7-12.
In support of the families’ position, the lawsuit says school officials estimated the closing of Jumpertown High School would yield $300,000 savings to the district. An alternate plan, however – presented by board President Rickie Davis, who also represents Jumpertown on the school board – claims savings of about $1.1 million for the district.
The lawsuit, therefore, asks the court to “reverse the school board’s decision and order them to accept the most financially responsible plan.”
Another element of the families’ lawsuit requests a management review of the school district’s governance and organization structure; financial and personnel management; revenue levels and sources; facilities utilization, planning and maintenance; food services, transportation and safety/security systems; instructional and administrative technology; instructional management efficiency and effectiveness; and recommendations for increasing efficiency and effectiveness in providing education to the public.
The third complaint contained in the lawsuit seeks to “protect against irreparable harm or damage to the students of Jumpertown.”
Plaintiffs claim that restructuring the Jumpertown school as planned would result in losses of scholarship money and other academic awards for Jumpertown students; that some underclassmen who have already purchased class rings, jackets and other items emblematic of their association with Jumpertown High School would suffer financial loss; and that special needs children would be moved to unfamiliar environments.
They have requested that the court grant a temporary restraining order and permanent injunction to prevent these school district changes.
The Jan. 20 school district restructuring plan, approved by a split vote of 3-2, replaces a restructuring plan adopted in September 2009. The plan approved in September resulted in two 7-12 grade high schools in the county and four K-6 elementary schools. The district currently has two K-8 schools; three K-12 schools and one 9-12 school.
Contact Lena Mitchell at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.