Country mouse vs. the city mouse in education

By TIM BEELAND,

Governor Phil Bryant certainly took his sweet time deciding whether or not there should be a state takeover of F-rated Jackson Public Schools. That is sure not the same approach he took back in 2014 when he pounced on the takeover of our then B-rated Scott County School District.
Wonder what the difference is?
Perhaps it is the money!
A takeover of Jackson Public Schools would be very expensive for the state.
Perhaps he’s afraid of the backlash from Jackson city officials.
A takeover of Jackson Public Schools is very unpopular with the city of Jackson and JPS parents.
Perhaps he really is looking for a better way than state takeover.
He announced last week that “he wants to give JPS stakeholders local control over aspects of the plan.”
The governor has formed a coalition that “will develop a collaborative, comprehensive plan to improve JPS.”
According to his office, the coalition centers on community involvement, collaborative governance and strategic investments.
According to news reports, “the state and city project commission will bring together JPS stakeholders and form partnerships with national and local experts, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Education Commission of the States and Mississippi Economic Council.”
Whatever all that means, it doesn’t seem to set well with Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. This is her official statement on last week’s announcement that the governor and the city are going to pursue a third option. One that, in keeping with everything the city of Jackson does, it seems, includes a study.
Wright sent this statement via e-mail.
“The State Board of Education and the Commission on School Accreditation followed state law when they determined the Jackson Public School District was in a state of emergency that jeopardizes the safety, security and educational interests of the students in the district.
“The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) stands behind that determination. The Governor has made a decision not to declare a state of emergency and to form a coalition to pursue another way to address this crisis. As of today, the MDE has not been asked to be part of this coalition. The Jackson Public School District is still required to develop a corrective action plan to submit to the State Board of Education for approval.
“The plan must clearly outline how the district will correct all accreditation violations in all 58 schools.”
Sounds like sour grapes to me.
Then Monday came the announcement via metro news outlets that Jackson City Councilman Kenneth Stokes has chimed in. Chimed is a poor use of words here considering Stokes doesn’t chime on anything. He shouts on everything.
Here’s what the councilman said as reported on WLBT News Channel 3.
“Carey Wright is overrated and overpaid. It was said while she was in Washington D.C. she had success stories, which is considered a majority black school district.
“She’s been in Jackson four years, going on five years, and these black districts are still failing at unreasonable numbers. So we’re saying something should have been done and something must be done.
“I think it is time for us to look at a new direction. A new Superintendent of Education. She has the highest paid salary in the history of the U.S. here in Mississippi. Surely, we can find a more qualified person.”
So in a rare moment for me I’m agreeing with Councilman Stokes. It is past time for Wright to move on.
All that business aside, back to the original point of this. Reckon why the governor didn’t look for any stakeholders here in Scott County to help to clean things up before state takeover.
We didn’t have students roaming the halls, skipping class, and doing just about whatever they want, as has been reported in Jackson schools. We were not a failing district and we had good teachers working extremely hard for our kids.
The country mouse vs. the city mouse I suppose. Or...perhaps...just perhaps it is the money!

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