School consolidation meeting held

School consolidation meeting held


A meeting to discuss the potential consolidation of the public schools here was held Monday night.

Lee Smith, one of the organizers, stressed the importance of public education in Neshoba County to economic development and said that a well-educated workforce is vital for prosperity.

Initiating the public discussion about education is what’s important, he said, indicating he envisions a professional study that will provide a path for the community. 

“Human beings are most impressionable, malleable, and vulnerable as children,” Smith said. “Childhood is the most formative period of a person’s lifetime, and children should be given the attention, care, and love necessary to fend against this immensely vulnerable period.”

Smith said it is the duty of adults in the community to ensure that all children are afforded the greatest opportunity to excel.

Smith discussed his opinions on the disparity in performance between the two school districts, in both academic achievement and graduation rates.

He argued for consolidation to provide equal educational opportunities for all children in the county while addressing concerns about city property values and the future if an exodus to the county continues.

Smith also acknowledged the complexity of the issue, particularly the financial implications and logistical challenges of merging the two school systems while maintaining their identities. 

“The longer we wait for the inevitable to occur, the tougher it will be for our town to fulfill its potential,” Smith said. “We must construct a comprehensive, thoughtful, and data-driven proposal to convince the school boards, citizens, and politicians that school consolidation is the best path forward.”

Leroy Clemons, another meeting organizer, emphasized the long-term impact on future generations and the importance of creating an environment where all voices can be heard.

“This will not only affect us right now, but it will affect our children for generations to come,” Clemons said. 

Johnny Crenshaw, a past county school board member, outlined what he sees as the legal process for voluntary school consolidation.

The first step in voluntary school consolidation involves both school boards agreeing to the process, he said, with resolutions passed and published in the Democrat. Following a 30-day period — during which voters can raise objections — the consolidation order is finalized if no petitions are submitted, according to Crenshaw.

If a petition is submitted, an election is held in the district where it originated to determine community support for consolidation. Approval by the majority in this vote finalizes the consolidation, otherwise, it doesn’t proceed, he said.

Upon voter approval, the consolidation plan must gain state Board of Education endorsement and federal agency clearance. A new board of five members would then be appointed along with a new superintendent, Crenshaw said.

While the consensus among attendees was that voluntary school consolidation might be challenging to achieve due to potential disagreements, the decision may ultimately rest with the state in cases where a school has persistently underperformed during an extended period. 

Harold Coburn, president of the Philadelphia School Board, stressed the need for fair resource allocation and addressing underlying issues within the school system.

“The question that needs to be asked is why are we allowing 200 of our students who live in the city limits to illegally go to Neshoba,” Coburn said. “We fail to address the real issues, and if we get the same resources we are going to excel. We talk about coming together and consolidating, but all we ask is a fair share of what’s ours.”

Businessman Mike Tinsley expressed confidence that consolidation would eventually occur, driven by state intervention but would likely take place many years from now.

“My family has 86 years at Philadelphia Public School,” Tinsley said. “The school is clean, and the facilities have been maintained over the years. If it happens, the state will mandate it when they think it’s going to happen. It may be five years or seven years from now, but it’s going to happen.”

He added, “All any kid wants is to be loved. What we have to do is strive to make both schools as good as they can for the kids.”

The meeting reflected a diverse range of perspectives and concerns regarding school consolidation, with a consensus emerging on the importance of equal education and economic development for the future of Neshoba County. 

The road ahead will likely involve further discussions, negotiations, and advocacy to address the complex challenges involved in merging the two school districts, Smith and others indicated.

No date has been set for the next meeting, but those interested can contact Smith at or Clemons at (601) 504-3980. 

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