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Senate Education Committee passes amended school consolidation bill

March 5, 2013

The state's Senate Education Committee passed a bill this morning that proposes to consolidate the Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts.

Miss. H.B. 716, originally filed by State Rep. Toby Barker in January, was approved by the committee with several amendments to the bill, one of which includes the establishment of an advisory council to be known as the Starkville-Oktibbeha County School District Structure.

The bill now goes before the full Senate, which has a March 13 deadline to take action on the proposed legislation.

The seven-member group would be tasked with reviewing the current structures of the city and county school districts and recommend how consolidating the two can improve the quality of education.

The commission would consist of Mississippi's state superintendent of education as the chairman, two SSD representatives to be appointed by the district's board of trustees, two residents within the former county school district, the county school district's conservator and a representative from Mississippi State University as appointed by MSU President Mark Keenum.

A review of capital facility needs would also be an objective of the newly-formed group. From the review, the committee would recommend methods of financing improvements and have authority to raise and expend non-state monies.

The commission would hold meetings and hearings before developing a report to support to the state legislature and the Mississippi Board of Education on or before Jan. 1, 2014, after which the commission would dissolve.

Consolidation of the two districts, which would be designated as Starkville-Oktibbeha County School District, would be effective July 1, 2015. Until that time, the Oktibbeha County School District would remain under conservatorship.

The Mississippi Department of Education would grant a waiver of accountability and state assessment requirements for the consolidated district's first three years of operation.

Updates to this development will be provided throughout the day and in Wednesday's edition of Starkville Daily News.

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