Vinson recommended to lead Okolona district

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Former Tupelo Superintendent Mike Vinson has been recommended to serve as the conservator of the ailing Okolona School District.
The state Board of Education is expected to approve this morning the recommendation of the Commission on School Accreditation to place the Okolona School District in conservatorship.
The state board also will decide whether to follow the recommendation of state Superintendent Tom Burnham to name Vinson to lead the district while it is under state control.
Under the state law, the governor has to declare a state of emergency before a district can be taken over. The governor would act upon the recommendation of the Board of Education.
Earlier this week, the Commission on School Accreditation found that “an extreme emergency situation exists” that “jeopardizes the safety, security and education interests” of the about 650 students in the Okolona district.
On Thursday, Burnham explained to the state board the problems in the district and also outlined the plans to make improvements and exit the district.
According to information compiled by Burnham’s office, the district will run out of money before the end of the fiscal year and be unable to pay salaries and other obligations.
Plus, the district has a pattern of poor student performance. It currently is classified as failing and its performance level was lower in 2009-10 than it was the prior year.
When the state takes over a school district, it fires the superintendent and abolishes the school board. But Burnham has said he expects current Okolona Superintendent Gregory Stephens to stay with the district in some capacity since he has been there only since January.
Vinson retired from the Tupelo School District in 2002 and then served a stint as executive director of the Mississippi Association of School Administrators.