Oktibbeha County high schools loss of accreditation affects football, others

By The Associated Press

STARKVILLE — Athletics programs at both West and East Oktibbeha County high schools are now ineligible for out-of-conference play, including playoffs, because of the school district’s recent accreditation withdrawal.

The Starkville Daily News reports that West Oktibbeha had qualified for the prep football playoffs this year.

The state Board of Education pulled the Oktibbeha County School District’s accreditation on Oct. 23. A conservator is trying to get the school system on track.

Mississippi Department of Education policy also shows the withdrawal affects cheerleading, drill, dance, speech, debate, choral and band programs, allowing them to participate in district or state contests but preventing them from receiving ratings.

“That means any football games they have that are conference games, they can (still) play,” said schools conservator Jayne Sargent. “That’s the same thing with basketball … that’s the same thing with track; that’s the same thing with every competitive sport.”

The West Oktibbeha Timberwolves had qualified for the playoffs with their 6-1 record in Class A, Region 3, District 4. West Oktibbeha, which closes the regular season at Pelahatchie Friday night, has an 8-2 overall mark.

West Oktibbeha football coach Adam Lowrey said it is his understanding that an appeal would be filed.

However, Patrice Guilfoyle, spokeswoman for the Department of Education, said the school system can’t regain its accreditation until its conservatorship is over, preventing an appeal process.

The East Oktibbeha Titans have struggled to a 2-8 overall record and a 1-6 Class A, Region 3, District 4 record. The Titans host senior night against Weir on Friday.

West Oktibbeha and East Oktibbeha were set to begin the basketball seasons next week.

Mississippi’s public school accountability standards would allow parents or guardians of children enrolled in a district that loses accreditation can file written petitions for legal transfer to accredited districts. State law allows the commission on school accreditation to grant the transfer.