Senate Bill passes, Lumberton School District could consolidate

Published: Mar. 2, 2016 at 8:58 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 4:24 PM CST
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LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - A group of bills that would consolidate nine school districts in Mississippi is one step closer to passing, and one of those would impact the Lumberton School District.

"The Mississippi Senate consolidated the administration of nine school districts, allowing the newly formed entities to eliminate duplicate services and direct more tax dollars into the classroom," Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday in a press release.

The bill is now headed to the House for consideration.

"Consolidating districts is about putting more money in the classroom and less in the district office," Reeves said. "It's about providing more resources for the students and improving their educational opportunities. Combining districts allows these communities to draw on a larger tax base to direct more money to classroom needs such as teachers, AP classes or technology."

Since 2012, the Legislature has reduced the number of school districts from 152 to 144.

The bills passed Wednesday includes:

  • Senate Bill 2495 that combines districts of Montgomery County, which has 273 students; Carroll County, which has 1,035 students; and Winona, which has 1,123 students.
  • Senate Bill 2497 that consolidates Houston School District, which has 1,781 students, and Okolona Separate School District, which has 690 students, into the Chickasaw County School District, which has 512 students.
  • Senate Bill 2500 that dissolves Lumberton Public School District, which has 585 students, and merges it with neighboring Poplarville and Lamar County districts, which have 1,927 and 9,996 students, respectively.

"Right now we are just monitoring it closely, I watched the discussion online today with a few of my teachers," Lamar County Superintended Tess Smith said. "There are several things we have requested that would benefit the district and students and we will work with the education committee when the bill gets to the House."

The bill, which was introduced by Sen. Gray Tollison, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, detailed the administrative consolidation of the Lumberton School District that will divide the district into the Lamar County School District and the Pearl River County School District.

The bill reads:

"To provide that the territory of the Lumberton Public School District located in Lamar County shall be transferred to the Lamar County School District and the territory of the Lumberton Public School District located in Pearl River County shall be transferred to the Poplarville Separate School District; to provide that students attending the schools of the former Lumberton Public School District shall be granted an automatic transfer by the Lamar County Board of Education or the Poplarville School Board, as determined by the residence of the student, to continue to attend the schools located in the former Lumberton Public School District."

"When you read through the bill there are multiple questions that we have, like the part where the (Lumberton) board dissolves in 2018, that is a semester before we fully take over, so some of the wording just doesn't match up," Smith said.

Smith added she is working closely with school board attorney Rick Norton to draft a list of questions for Sen. John Polk (R-Hattiesburg), regarding the bill.

"When we get that list of questions, we will meet with Sen. Polk and discuss some of those with him," Smith said. "(Polk) has been extremely helpful so far, they are on the right track but it still needs a lot of work."

Lumberton Superintendent Linda Smith released a statement regarding the bill when it was first introduced.:

"It appears from the language of the bill as introduced that the faculty and students would remain at the Lumberton School at least for the present time, with all future determinations to be made by the Lamar County and Poplarville School Districts.  The Lamar County and Poplarville Districts would have authority over the Lumberton school facilities, faculty and  students.  The unintended consequences of this action may be devastating for this community."

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