Bryant forms coalition to improve JPS; Lumumba holds news conference

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Gov. Phil Bryant has formed a coalition that will develop a plan to improve Jackson Public Schools.

His office said the initiative centers on community involvement, collaborative governance, and strategic investments.

Officials said it does not initiate a state takeover of JPS, though the Mississippi Department of Education’s request remains active. Instead, it brings together JPS stakeholders and forms partnerships with national and local experts, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Education Commission of the States and Mississippi Economic Council.

“The easy thing for me to do would have been approve the state takeover,” Gov. Bryant said. “This is a better way forward for the 27,000 students in JPS. The opportunity to form this coalition was too good to pass up. I am grateful for the membership’s commitment to bring transformative change to Jackson Public Schools.”

As part of the first phase, every current member of the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees has resigned.

Also included is the formation of a Project Commission, comprised of JPS stakeholders. From there, commissioners and local, state and national partners will engage the community in a series of listening sessions.

“The Governor and I agree that the challenges faced by the Jackson Public School District provide an opportunity to create a new transformative vision for JPS,” said Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “Our children deserve an excellent school district. I am pleased to work together with Governor Bryant and the Kellogg Foundation to create this ‘Third Option’ for JPS. Many would say that the Governor and my political views represent oppositional poles; however, this collaboration is an excellent demonstration of what I have called ‘Operational Unity.’”
The Kellogg Foundation has agreed to support the commission’s discovery efforts, including the outside evaluation and listening sessions.

“Children are our greatest asset, and we believe in their hopes, dreams, and aspirations,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president, and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Their future makes this work so important and when we stand together in partnership with the governor, mayor, JPS and the community, all in alignment, great things will happen.”

The Project Commission will consider the findings and will work with outside organizations to identify existing resources within JPS to apply toward the plan’s implementation.

There will also be periodic evaluations.

The Department of Education had this to say about the governor’s decision:

The State Board of Education and the Commission on School Accreditation followed state law when they determined the Jackson Public School District was in a state of emergency that jeopardizes the safety, security and educational interests of the students in the district.

The Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) stands behind that determination. The Governor has made a decision not to declare a state of emergency and to form a coalition to pursue another way to address this crisis. As of today, the MDE has not been asked to be part of this coalition. The Jackson Public School District is still required to develop a corrective action plan to submit to the State Board of Education for approval.

The plan must clearly outline how the district will correct all accreditation violations in all 58 schools. – MDE Superintendent Dr. Carey Wright

Below is a statement from JPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Freddrick Murray:

We are so appreciative of Governor Phil Bryant, Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the community for pulling this together to make transformational changes at Jackson Public Schools. We have already implemented a lot of changes. We are working on the Corrective Action Plan. Everyone is committed to improving education for the District’s children.

The Jackson Public School Board of Trustees have all willingly resigned from their positions as board members. I will continue to serve as interim superintendent and am excited about the transformation the District is embarking upon. I look forward to working with the new Board and remain committed to making the necessary improvements to achieve academic success.

Again, we are committed and dedicated to this effort.  We are humbled and grateful for this wonderful opportunity.

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