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Bryant signs declaration, meeting set

September 30, 2012

The Mississippi Department of Education will send representatives to meet with parents and community leaders at 6 p.m. Monday at East Oktibbeha County High School, where the representatives will communicate a plan of action to correct conditions that prompted Gov. Phil Bryant to declare a state of emergency in the Oktibbeha County School District Friday.

Bryant issued the declaration in response to a resolution the Mississippi Board of Education adopted Thursday. This declaration is the final step authorizing the MDE to take control of the county school district.

“I have reviewed the findings by the Mississippi Department of Education and agree the current leadership in the Oktibbeha County School District is jeopardizing the learning environment,” Bryant said. “This pattern cannot continue. The students and communities in that district deserve better.”

Patrice Guilfoyle, MDE communications director, said MDE representatives appearing at the public meeting will include legislative services director Pete Smith, bureau director Paula Vanderford and conservatorship director Bill Welch. She also confirmed Jayne Sargent, who the MBE selected as the district’s interim conservator, will be present. She said MDE selected EOCHS as a venue for accommodation’s sake.

“They just wanted to make sure there was enough room for everyone to attend,” Guilfoyle said.

Prior to the public meeting, she said, the representatives will also meet with the district’s faculty and staff during the day.

“That meeting (with) faculty and staff is going to be a closed meeting,” Guilfoyle said. “It is not a public meeting.”

Guilfoyle said she did not know if either the public or private meeting would include district officials the MBE voted to dismiss Thursday: Superintendent James Covington and the district’s board of directors.

Sargent will decide when these dismissals will take effect, Guilfoyle said, and she will also decide the fates of assistant superintendents, principals and other faculty, staff and administrators.

“All that’s going to be shared with the community on Monday,” Guilfoyle said.

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