Prentiss County to examine school reorganization

BOONEVILLE – A proposal to reorganize two of Prentiss County’s K-8 schools as well as to modify instructional schedules for three K-12 schools is on today’s meeting agenda for the Prentiss County School Board.
Educational consultant Kermit Keenum submitted recommendations earlier this month for board members to consider, changes he projected would save the district at least $500,000.
He asked that they make a decision soon so that if any of the recommendations are accepted there would be adequate time to implement them for the 2009-2010 school year.
The first recommendation is for Hills Chapel and Marietta, both K-8 schools. Keenum says changing Hills Chapel to a K-4 school and Marietta to a grades 5-8 school would save the district almost $260,000 by reducing the total number of teachers from 42 to 36.
His recommendation to streamline teacher schedules for grades 7-12 at Thrasher, Jumpertown and Wheeler, all K-12 schools, could save the district about $250,000 by reducing the number of teachers from 37 to 31. This change in teacher scheduling would require some teachers to teach at two schools, he said.
Several meetings have been held to give school staff and parents an opportunity to learn more about the proposal and provide feedback, said Superintendent Matt Smith.

Mixed feelings
Although there is opposition, Smith said there also is substantial support. Many of the comments, he said, have validated the more than 55 percent of county voters who, in a November straw poll vote, supported some kind of change for the district.
Keenum has been working as a volunteer consultant, charging the district no fee, since November. His experience includes 32 years in education, 20 of them as a school superintendent, and he has worked as a consultant in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.
As a Prentiss County native, he graduated from Jumpertown High School and returned to live in the county after retirement.
The board engaged him to work with them as an adviser, assisting with a five-year and long-range plan.
Keenum said he has kept classroom instruction as the top priority. However, his suggestions also touched on other areas of district management, structure and controlling expenses, which were among the priorities the board approved for him to examine.
The board meets at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Board of Education offices in downtown Booneville.

Lena Mitchell/Daily Journal

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