UPDATED: Jackson Schools Not Part of New Achievement School District | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

UPDATED: Jackson Schools Not Part of New Achievement School District

State Superintendent Carey Wright said the application for the new superintendent of the state's Achievement School District will close in December, and she hoped to bring the board a superintendent by February.

State Superintendent Carey Wright said the application for the new superintendent of the state's Achievement School District will close in December, and she hoped to bring the board a superintendent by February. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

This story has been updated to show JPS will not be absorbed into the Achievement School District, and the board voted to delay decisions on the other districts until after a superintendent is hired.

Jackson Public Schools is not likely to be a part of the state's new Achievement School District, based on the Mississippi Board of Education members' discussion this morning. Noxubee and Humphreys County School Districts are eligible for the ASD, as well as JPS. The board voted this afternoon to not include JPS in the ASD as well as delay voting to include Noxubee and Humphreys until after the superintendent is hired, the Associated Press reported.

The ASD is a statewide school-district model intended to bring some of the state's "failing" school districts under one superintendent, and governed by the Mississippi Board of Education. In order for the State to absorb a school districts into the ASD, it must receive an "F" grade in the accountability rankings for two years in a row. The task force working on the ASD looked specifically at districts with 50 percent of schools receiving "F" grades in the district and 50 percent of students in the district attending an "F" school. Noxubee, Humphreys and JPS all meet those criteria.

Bonita Coleman, who chaired the ASD task force and is the superintendent of the Ocean Springs School District, said the group focused on districts that were the most in need.

"We specifically dealt with data. ... We ran those numbers over and over. We made sure we also looked at the department's ability to provide support," Coleman told the state board this morning.

The task force provided the board two options: either absorb Noxubee and Humphreys into the ASD or absorb Noxubee, Humphreys and JPS into the ASD.

In the Humphreys School District, 73 percent of students attend an "F" school, Coleman said, and in Noxubee, 75 percent of students attend "F"-rated schools. In JPS, 50 percent of students attend "F"-rated schools.

Jason Dean, vice-chair of the state board, spoke first ,about the ASD saying he did not want JPS to go into the Achievement School District. He said he received lots of phone calls and that the work going on now in the district is exciting.

"I'm comfortable with what's happening there," he said.

Charles McClelland, who is not only on the state board but also chairs the Better Together Commission that is tasked with helping turn JPS around, agreed with Dean.

"There is no question in my mind that Jackson Public Schools is beginning to work in the right direction," he told the board. "... I think it would be pretty harsh at this point with the momentum that has been put forth ... to put them in the Achievement School District and let this work go to waste."

Board Chairwoman Rosemary Aultman agreed with McClelland, saying the board's general consensus would be to let the governor's plan go forward, leaving JPS out of the ASD.

State Superintendent Carey Wright said the department has advertised for the ASD superintendent position, and the application is open until the end of December. She said she hopes to do interviews in January and bring the board a superintendent by February.

When districts go into the ASD, districts lose local control. The State removes the local school board and superintendent and replace them with the ASD superintendent and the Mississippi Board of Education. The funds of local school districts are pooled into the ASD.

Noxubee and Humphreys County School Districts are 60 miles apart, but state law does not require the new superintendent of the ASD to live in either of the districts. Coleman said the new superintendent could live in Jackson and commute.

Dean made a motion to eliminate option two altogether to keep JPS out of the ASD. The board will vote on that motion later this afternoon.

Board members seemed split on approving Noxubee and Humphreys School Districts into the ASD today and needed more time. Some members want to meet the superintendent before approving districts, but Wright aid that might hurt applications for the position because applicants would not know what they are signing up for. MDE has received many calls about the position, Wright said.

See this story for an update after the state board votes on the Achievement School District later this afternoon. Email state reporter Arielle Dreher at arielle@jacksonfreepress.com. Read more at jacksonfreepress.com/jpstakeover.

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