Let Jackson Govern Its Public Schools

September 20, 2017 in Education

By Pam Shaw,

#OurJPSCoalition,

Commentary,

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 10.42.39 AMThe recent push by the State Board of Education to justify a state takeover of the Jackson Public School District has caused alarm throughout the city and state, and we are concerned about its implications.

A new law which took effect July 1, provides that a state takeover of a school district will likely last at least eight years. Under such a scheme, an entire generation of students may not fully know the benefits of having their parents and local citizens as the controlling voices of their school culture.

Tragically, these students may arbitrarily be denied the life-enhancing experiences that come with competing in extra-curricular activities; their neighborhood schools may be closed and consolidated into a building across town; they may have to take extra steps just to have their diplomas recognized by in-state colleges and universities – not to mention the difficulties that could come with applying to out-of-state institutions.

We believe the children of Jackson deserve better, and we stand with the parents, educators, business leaders, faith leaders and community leaders who have raised their voices collectively as #OurJPS to make their concerns known.

While we recognize that there have been documented problems within JPS over the course of several years, we have been encouraged with the rapid rate at which nearly all deficiencies outlined in a massive Mississippi Department of Education audit have been positively addressed.

We watched as interim JPS Superintendent Freddrick Murray dutifully outlined the strides that have been made to correct those problems in only a few months’ time. We believe that the efforts of the school district should be respectfully acknowledged; however, it appeared that the DOE was already poised to demand a takeover well before Murray’s report was provided in an open hearing.

While some have scoffed at the idea that a plot to take over the district has been developing for some time, given the quick decisions behind closed doors to recommend the state takeover by the Commission on Accreditation last Wednesday and by the DOE the next day, we suspect that the conspiracy theorists may be right.

Notably, neither panel glanced at the information provided by the district before going into executive sessions and then coming out to announce their verdicts – a state takeover was warranted.

As advocates of open government, we are astounded at the calling and reporting of executive sessions during this process, but that is a subject for another day.

We recognize that problems and issues that took years to develop will take time to correct. We urge the Governor, upon whose desk this monumental school district takeover now sits, to postpone a decision on the recommendation until such reasonable time that the district needs to at least complete its response to the 700-page audit that is the basis of the takeover threat.

We hope that the District’s successful compliance and positive addressing of its deficiencies will mean that local control of our city’s school district will remain intact.

Editor’s note:

The potential State takeover of the Jackson Public Schools District continues to be a hot button issue. The Mississippi Link is committed to following this story until the end and providing you with the most accurate and up-to-date information. Next week, we will present views from the opposing side and we will share our thoughts. Governor Bryant is scheduled to meet with Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba this week before making a decision.

Please follow this story here and online at www.mississippilink.com