By STEVEN NALLEY
Starkville School District officials announced plans to change the district’s bus system and establish an official school clinic at the SSD Board of Directors meeting Tuesday.
SSD Assistant Superintendent Toriano Holloway said the new plan will reduce the amount of buses starting up each morning from 60 to 30, with shorter routes that bus drivers will run more than once. The new routes will also separate students into at least two age groups, he said, whereas the SSD currently runs K-12 bus routes that carry students from all different grades to all of the SSD’s schools.
“We have kindergartners who ride the bus with 12th graders currently,” Holloway said. “You have kids on the bus now for over an hour and 15 minutes.”
Holloway said Gulfport and Hattiesburg have both made similar adjustments to their bus systems, not only increasing efficiency but also improving student passenger behavior. The SSD’s current bus system also suffers when athletics teams use the buses for travel, he said, and the new system would eliminate that issue.
SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said the improved bus efficiency would also reduce the amount of time children spend waiting for buses to pick them up from school and the amount of time teachers spend supervising them during that wait.
“That planning time comes back to teachers,” Lewis Holloway said.
Toriano Holloway also said the district plans to hire a nurse practitioner to start a school clinic for employees, employees’ children and children enrolled in the district. This nurse practitioner will be able to provide minor acute care, prescribe medicine, give physical assessments and provide treatments for multiple diseases.
“It’s done in other districts; it reduced time lost from work,” Toriano Holloway said. “It’s a great benefit for employees that don’t have to go to the doctor and wait.”
Toriano Holloway said the nurse practitioner would come at no cost to the district, because she would make all charges to insurance for employees, their children and students, including Medicaid. The only funding this nurse practitioner will need, he said, is about $1,000 for equipment.
“She has her own liability insurance (and) everything,” Toriano Holloway said. “If we’ve got a kid (who needs the nurse), instead of going to a doctor and worrying about co-pay, they can come to the clinic, and whatever the insurance pays, that’s what she’ll accept as her salary.”
Lewis Holloway said the SSD has also finalized a strategic planning process, with plans for four meetings on Jan. 13, Feb. 21, Mar. 21 and April 11. He said Phil Hardwick, coordinator of capacity development at Mississippi State University’s John C. Stennis Institute of Government, is slated to assist with the process.
“He’s done a great deal of this. We walked through the entire process ... and he thought it was very doable,” Lewis Holloway said. “The first (meeting) is to identify where we are now, where our test scores are and who we are as Starkville. The second one (would deal with the) mission, vision (and) values. The third one would be listening to the community and our stakeholders about where we want to go as a school district. The final one would be (about the way) we officially get there.”
Finally, the board discussed plans to hold an election for one of its board members. Lewis Holloway said this election will take place March 2, and candidates must file petitions with the SSD signed by no less than 25 qualified electors by Jan. 18 to qualify for the election.
Currently, SSD board president Keith Coble is the board’s only elected official. Explaining, he said Starkville city officials appoint four board members, but citizens always elect one member who lives inside the district but outside the city limits, and this member is not necessarily the board’s president.
“When I came on board, I was elected, and I was just a member. Then, I moved up,” Coble said. “I have not said whether I am (running for the elected board slot) again. I’ll make up my mind sometime over the Christmas holidays.”
Lewis Holloway said SSD attorney Dolton McAlpin recently reminded him that Mississippi law regarding this elected board slot has changed, moving the vote from a special election early in the year to the November general election.
“This will be the last election that’s run this way,” Lewis Holloway said. “After that, it will go to a regular November ballot.”