Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker

The House Education Committee wrapped up what is likely its final work as a full committee on Tuesday, passing several bills and killing one bill that would prohibit family members of superintendents and principals from being hired in their districts and schools.

Another bill affecting superintendents did pass the committee, however. The committee replaced the language in Senate Bill 2398, which would have required new superintendents to have at least six years of classroom or administrative experience, three of which must be as a principal of an A- or B-rated school or a school that increased its rating by a letter grade during the time the individual was principal, with language from a House bill that passed earlier.

The new bill says individuals with 10 years of supervisory or senior management experience and who are approved by the local school board are eligible to become superintendent of a school district. It also adds an amendment allowing for school board members to be recalled or removed.

School superintendents are currently required to hold a valid administrator’s license from the state and have at least four years of classroom or administrative experience. Current school superintendents would be grandfathered in to the system.

The committee passed two consolidation bills, one allowing Perry County and Richton School Districts to work together to come up with a proposal for administrative consolidation and Senate Bill 2463, which would consolidate Chickasaw County, Houston and Okolona School Districts.

“I met with the superintendents and they’re already kind of sharing services anyway — some of their vo-tech (vocational-technical education) is already shared,” Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg, explained. “What they preferred is to be given a year to go back and bring forward a proposal to the Legislature on how administrative consolidation would work.”

Although the bill originally only included Chickasaw Co. and Houston school districts in consolidation plans, Barker suggested the committee approve a strike-all amendment that includes Okolona School District as well.

“To simply just leave them out there does not do them any favors,” Barker said, noting the district recently came out from under conservatorship and are currently rated as an F by the Mississippi Department of Education.

The committee also passed Senate Bill 2431, which replaces schools under conservatorships with Districts of Transformation. Any school district rated a D or F must achieve a rating of C or higher for five consecutive years before it is returned to local control. The bill also changes term “conservator” to “interim superintendent.”

Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.