MDE answers questions about state takeovers

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) — After the Mississippi State Board of Education decided they would ask Gov. Phil Bryant to declare a state of emergency regarding Jackson Public Schools, parents and community members have questions about how the possible takeover would affect students.

The Department of Education compiled a list of many of the questions they have been asked.

Here are some of the answers.

Question 1: What is a District of Transformation?

When the governor declares a state of emergency in a school district, the State Board of Education (SBE) becomes the governing body of the school district. The local school board is temporarily disbanded, and the SBE appoints an interim superintendent to lead the district. An interim superintendent remains the district leader until the district has sustained a grade of C or higher over a multiyear period. While an interim superintendent will work with district staff to clear accreditation violations, the primary focus will be raising student achievement.

Question 2: What is a state of emergency?

This means an extreme emergency exists in a school district that jeopardizes the safety, security or educational interests of the children enrolled in the schools in that district and that the emergency is believed to be related to a serious violation or violations of accreditation standards or state or federal law.

Question 3: Will students stay in the same school?

Yes. However, if accreditation is withdrawn, students are eligible to transfer out of the district to attend a neighboring district that has the capacity and willingness to serve additional students.

Question 4: What happens with accreditation?

All districts will be assigned their accreditation status at the Commission on School Accreditation meeting in October 2017. Any school district that becomes a District of Transformation may have its accreditation withdrawn by the Commission on School Accreditation. If accreditation is withdrawn, the district has one year from the time its accreditation is withdrawn to correct all deficiencies and apply to have its accreditation reinstated.

Question 5: What happens to athletics and other extracurricular activities?

If the district has not corrected its deficiencies within one year, the following penalty goes into effect:

2.9.2 Penalty for the Withdrawal of Accreditation: Policy 2.9.2 will become effective one calendar year following the Withdrawal of Accreditation by the Commission on School Accreditation and the State Board of Education.

  • A school or schools within a district shall be limited to participation in no more than fifty percent (50%) of the regular season of any interscholastic activity, which shall include division/district/regional games
  • The interscholastic season schedule for a school or schools within a district shall not include the opening day of season or any type of post season participation, as determined by the Office of Accreditation, and 
  • Cheerleading, drill and dance squads, speech and debate, choral music, and band may participate in district or state contest, but shall not be eligible to receive ratings.
  • All schedule requests must be submitted in writing to the Mississippi Department of Education, Office of Accreditation, at least thirty (30) days prior to the beginning of the season. The Office of Accreditation shall pre-approve all schedules and participation in interscholastic activities. In addition to the suspension of all post season activities, the school district shall not be allowed to participate in jamborees, special games, parades, tournaments, holiday tournaments, or competitions of any nature.
  • Failure to comply with section 2.9.2 will result in the suspension of ALL interscholastic activities.
  • Failure of a district to have its accreditation reinstated by the Commission on School Accreditation after a period of two (2) calendar years from the date of the withdrawal of accreditation shall result in the immediate suspension of ALL interscholastic activities until the district’s accreditation status is reinstated.
  • Note: Interscholastic activities include, but are not limited to, football, basketball, baseball, track and field, cross country, tennis, golf, volleyball, softball (fast pitch and slow pitch), soccer, wrestling, swimming, power lifting, bowling, archery, cheerleading, drill, and dance squads, speech and debate, choral music, and band.

Question 6: Are students who graduated from a high school in a district that has lost its accreditation eligible to attend college and receive scholarships? 

Yes. Students attending high schools whose accreditation has been withdrawn continue to receive Carnegie unit credits that count toward meeting graduation requirements.  Students who meet the graduation requirements established by the district and the Mississippi State Board of Education will be awarded a diploma.  Admission to any Mississippi Institution of Higher Learning (IHL) or any Mississippi Community or Junior College is based on the specific criteria required by the individual institution. Scholarships are usually awarded based on specific criteria such as ACT scores and/or a student’s GPA rather than the school attended.

Question 7: Does a District of Transformation open the door for more charter schools?

Per state law, all districts that are rated D or F are currently eligible for charter schools to apply to operate in their district.

Question 8: What is the difference between a District of Transformation and a Conservatorship?

The law was changed in 2017 to make academic achievement a priority when districts are placed under state control. Under the new law, an interim superintendent works to correct accreditation violations and remains until the district has sustained a grade of C or higher for five years.

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