HOULKA -- During their June meeting, the Chickasaw County School District School Board heard from Mike Kent, a State Department of Education consultant helping with district consolidations, who discussed the fast-approaching consolidation of the Chickasaw County School District into the Houston School District.

That consolidation officially starts July 1 -- less than 30 days from now.

Kent reviewed State Statute 37-7-104.8, which governs Mississippi school consolidations.

He reminded trustees that the coming consolidation “would be an administrative consolidation, not a building consolidation. The two districts will continue to operate under separate budgets until the new district begins official operation July 1, 2021.

“There is no requirement to close any buildings or modify any zone lines, but the statute does not preclude the new board -- whose members will be elected this November -- from doing that in the future if it sees fit.”

There’s a lot of fear concerning who may loose their jobs in a consolidation. Much of the losses will come from the top of the organizational structure, Kent told trustees. “Teacher and principal jobs are safe. The jobs to be affected are in the central office, where they’re going from two superintendents to one, two finance officers to one, two special education directors to one, et cetera.”

He said paragraph 2 of Senate Bill 2463, passed in 2017 and signed into law later that year, puts the sole final administrative power in the hands of Houston School District Superintendent Tony Cook, and takes it away from the two current school boards.

The Houston superintendent will be responsible for running both districts from July 1, 2020 to June 30 of 2021, although each district will continue to operate under separate budgets until the new district assumes operation next year.

As the Houston superintendent, even though he’s not named in the bill, “Mr. Cook is responsible for organizing and transitioning two districts into one by the effective date of July 1, 2021, which is when the new district officially begins operations,” Kent said.

The new district will be called the Chickasaw County School District, and the new district’s central office will remain in Houston.

The bill keeps the Houlka Wildcats and Houston Hilltoppers team names and does not include busing students.

Among many questions yet to be answered is how different school levies from two taxing districts will be combined and then fairly allocated by the new school board. The bill states Chickasaw County Supervisors will be the “levying authority” for the new district.

Kent then discussed time lines related to the consolidation.

“The Chickasaw County Circuit Clerk and the County Election Commission are responsible for organizing this November’s election for the new district’s five-member interim board of education,” he said. Circuit Clerk Cassandra Pulliam said late last week she needs more information on the matter before she can say when the qualifying deadline will be for those seeking to run for a board seat.

Kent said the interim board would be composed of three members from the Houston School District, and two members from the current Chickasaw County School District.

“Those seeking office don’t have to live in Houston or Houlka city limits, but they must live within the boundaries of those two school districts.

“Okolona is completely removed from this issue: No one from the boundaries of the Okolona School District is eligible to run in this election, and no one from the Okolona district should be voting in this election,” he said.

Kent said that he would meet with the newly elected interim trustees in December and orient them for their jobs in the spring of 2021.

“In January of 2021 the new trustees will be sworn in, elect officers, hire legal counsel, and begin the discussion about hiring a new superintendent. The interim board’s primary responsibility will be to hire a permanent superintendent who will come on board July 1, 2021.

“In short, there will be a lot going on this spring. --Renewing teacher and principal contracts, creating a new budget, standardizing the pay scale, standardizing policies and procedures -- the list is very long,” Kent said.

Current Chickasaw County School District Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums’ current contract expires in December of this year. He predicts she will remain busy, both to the expiration of her contract and after.

“Dr. Collums’ contract will be honored, and I think Tony Cook will rely heavily on her for assistance in the coming months,” Kent said.

Said Dr. Collums: “Consolidation of school districts is a challenging process. However, I think the staff of our districts will pull together

to make the transition as smooth as possible. It is unfortunate that the pandemic has added to the uncertainty for school planning this summer.”

The board took the following other actions during their 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday, June 2.

Trustees:

--Approved the following consent agenda items: Minutes from May 5th board meeting, budget amendments, and out of district travel

--Approved payment of claims.

--Approved financial statements.

--Approved the Special Education Extended School Year Application and workers June 1 – 4 and June 8 - 11. The workers included Christy Moss – Teacher – $160.08; Carol Warren – Teacher – $198.25; and Mallory Ragon – Speech Pathologist - $129.33.

--Approved the Federal Program Application and Assurances for FY 21.

--Approved the Synergetics Tech Contract for $21,375 for FY 21. Synergetics is a major information technology services and consulting firm in the Southeast, providing technology solutions for business, education, financial, government, healthcare and manufacturing customers.

--Approved the resignation of preschool teacher Courtney Harris at the end of her current contract.

--Approved the resignation of speech teacher Mallory Ragon at the end of her current contract.

--Approved hiring Lacie Preston as speech-language therapist at AA0 on the salary scale for the 2020-2021 school year pending certification.

--Approved hiring Chantal Evans as an assistant teacher at a salary of $16,000 for the 2020-2021 school year pending certification.

--Approved hiring Patricia Dodson as ISS monitor at a salary of $16,000 for the 2020-2021 school year pending certification.

--Approved rescinding the contract of social studiesw teacher Chris Walls for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved hiring Britten Haire as a history teacher at A1 on the salary scale for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved rescinding the contract with special education teacher Carol Warren for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved the Agreement of Cooperation for Transition Services with the MS Department of Rehabilitation Services for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved membership of CCSD in MASS for a fee of $1,250 for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved MSBA Annual Membership for FY 21for a fee of $1,276 for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved MSBA Online Policy subscription for FY 21 for a fee of $3,000.

--Approved using Cares Act (ESSER) funds to complete a 1:1 initiative to include devices and access points both inside and outside school buildings.

Congress recently set aside billions of dollars allotted to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund).

The federal Department of Education awards these grants to state educational agencies for the purpose of providing local schools with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation, according to Internet sources.

--Approved the deletion of fixed assets.

--Approved Superintendent Collums and Principal Willie Mounce as purchasing agents for the 2020-2021 school year.

--Approved donation of Aruba outside Internet access points. An access point (AP) is a networking hardware device that allows other Wi-Fi devices to connect to a wired network. The AP usually connects to a router (via a wired network) as a standalone device, but it can also be an integral component of the router itself. An AP is differentiated from a hotspot which is a physical location where Wi-Fi access is available, according to Internet sources.

Aruba Networks, formerly known as Aruba Wireless Networks, is a Santa Clara, Cal., based wireless networking subsidiary of Hewlett Packard Company.

--Approved a donation from Bovay of $9.938.50 for inside internet access points, 27 Chromebooks, and a charging cart.

--Heard a Gifted Program report from Dr. Collums. The report was prepared by gifted teacher Mary Stanford.

--Recessed.

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