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State Education Superintendent Carey Wright said Thursday that she respects Gov. Phil Bryant’s efforts to weigh all the options for the Jackson Public School District.
“I think he’s got to do his due diligence and I respect him for that,” Wright told reporters after a state Board of Education meeting. “We know it’s a big decision and I know he’s been meeting with a lot of stakeholders and I respect the amount of time that he’s taking.”
The public is currently waiting on Bryant to make the final decision on what happens to the state’s second largest school district. While state education officials have urged him to declare a state of emergency, forcing a takeover of the district, Bryant told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was open to another option.
“We’ve made the recommendation for a declaration of an emergency and we’re still holding to that recommendation,”Wright said. “But if the governor so chooses to go a different direction then that’s his choice.”
Bryant spokesman Clay Chandler said in an email to Mississippi Today on Thursday that the governor had not made a decision and there was no timetable for him to do so. The governor had said he would hold off making an announcement until after the state Board of Education formally approved school district accountability scores, which it did Thursday.
In September, the Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation and the state Board of Education each declared an extreme emergency existed in the district that warranted state takeover. Both recommended Bryant declare a state of emergency in the district so it could be placed in the District of Transformation.
Although it is home to the highest-performing elementary school in the state, the roughly 27,000 student district received an F for both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years. This second consecutive failing accountability grade also makes JPS an eligible candidate for the state-run Achievement School District.
Wright said decisions about which districts will join the ASD are dependent on capacity, and the ASD task-force would begin assessing which eligible districts fit the correct criteria at their meeting next month.
The state Board of Education was scheduled to discuss plans for a takeover should the governor declare a state of emergency in a work session Thursday, but board chair Rosemary Aultman announced after members came out of executive session during their regular meeting that the work session was postponed because “we’ve had a couple of members that have had to leave and we have a couple more that need to get on the road.” The work session will be rescheduled for a later date, she said.
“My interest, and my interest from the very beginning, is what’s in the best interest of the children of that district,” Wright said. “They deserve a high quality education, they deserve every opportunity that anybody else is getting across the state and that’s where I’m coming from. This isn’t about the politics. This isn’t about anything else except doing what’s in the best interests of children.”