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State board recommends takeover of Jackson Public Schools

DECIDED: The state Board of Education voted to recommend a state takeover of the Jackson Public Schools District. Photo by Steve Wilson

The state Board of Education ruled Thursday that an extreme state of emergency exists in the Jackson Public Schools District, which will set up a possible state takeover of the state's second-largest school district.

The board needed two hours of deliberation in executive session to decide the matter and the motion is now headed to Bryant for final approval. If the governor approves the recommendation, the Mississippi Department of Education could appoint a conservator or hire a private firm to manage the JPS.

The board also approved a contract for Margie Pulley, who served as state-appointed conservator of the Oktibbeha County School District for two years before its merger with the Starkville School District in 2015, to serve as the new interim superintendent for JPS.

On Wednesday, the state Commission on Accreditation recommended to the board after a 10-1 vote that there was a state of emergency in the JPS District.

The state Commission on Accreditation voted 10-1 Wednesday to recommend to the state Board of Education that an emergency situation exists in the JPS District. Photo by Steve Wilson

JPS is already on probation that was approved last August by the accreditation commission after a limited audit of 22 of the then 60 schools in JPS found serious deficiencies. The commission approved a more comprehensive audit at that meeting that was revealed on August 31.

The Mississippi Department of Education released its 18-month comprehensive audit of Jackson Public Schools on August 31 and found the district was in violation of 24 out of the 32 standards that all public school districts are required to meet.

MDE's chief accountability officer, Paula Vanderford, gave basically the same presentation she did on Wednesday to the board about the reasons for the need for an emergency declaration in the JPS, citing numerous safety issues, testing irregularities and problems with instruction and academic performance.

JPS interim Superintendent Freddrick Murray made the same case he made before the accreditation commission Wednesday that the district — with 14 new principals and a new organizational plan that split the district into four divisions —was making progress.

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