PPS Shepherds Legislation Benefiting Starkville Public Schools

Public school systems often find themselves impacted by forces seemingly beyond their control, and there is perhaps no greater impact than how the decisions of lawmakers affect school operations and educational quality. This fact has certainly been true for public schools in Starkville, Mississippi over the last year. PPS Starkville is pleased to report great successes in shepherding legislative impact for the children of Starkville and Oktibbeha County.

During the 2013 session of the Mississippi Legislature, a representative from Hattiesburg, Mississippi introduced legislation that would mandate the consolidation of the Starkville School District, a successfully rated system, and the Oktibbeha County School District, a much smaller district under the conservatorship of the Mississippi Department of Education. The legislation came as a shock to local public school advocates and officials, and prompted a flurry of activity by parent organizations including Parents for Public Schools (PPS) Starkville. Along with other organizations, PPS joined in an effort to lobby the Mississippi Legislature to create the Commission on Starkville Consolidated School District Structure, an advisory commission charged by the state legislature with making recommendations for how a successful consolidation could be accomplished. Comprised of representatives from both consolidating districts, Mississippi State University, and the Mississippi Department of Education, the commission was the first of its kind in the state and created a vehicle for a proactive response to this legislative mandate.

A year later, new legislation has now been enacted into law by the 2014 Mississippi Legislature that encompasses virtually all of the Commission’s recommendations for the new Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District and serves as the basis for a groundbreaking plan to further the educational opportunities for all children living in Starkville and Oktibbeha County. The plan, as well as the process over the last year, will serve as a model for future consolidations in Mississippi.

Senate Bill 2818 was enacted by the Mississippi Legislature on April 7, 2014 and signed into law by Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant. The Bill is the culmination of a year-long effort to advocate for the tools needed to ensure a successful consolidated public school district in Oktibbeha County.

Consolidation can be a frightening word for school districts and parents alike. Through the efforts of the last year, PPS Starkville has seen how a scary and often ugly reality in public education can be re-painted and re-focused into an effort that will revitalize and expand opportunities, secured in part through the diligent work and cooperation of its parent advocates. For Starkville, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District is poised to set a groundbreaking example of how the consolidation process in Mississippi can be more than downsizing paperwork and meeting minimum test-score requirements. It can be the spark for providing greater educational opportunities than ever before and achieving a new and even greater benchmark of excellence.