It was one of the largest crowds in recent history to attend a regular school board meeting, according to one official.
Several concerned citizens addressed board members regarding the district’s plan to eliminate grades 9-12 at Jumpertown High School beginning next year, and displacing nearly 100 students.
Board Chairman Rickie Davis, who lives in the Jumpertown area, received applause when he told board members who voted for the measure, “You’re messing with our children and we deserve some answers.”
Davis had earlier said it didn’t make any sense to move 92 students to save an estimated $300,000 when it would cost more than that to build new classrooms on the New Site campus to accommodate a future plan to make New Site a 7-12 campus. New Site is currently a 9-12 school. Marietta and Hills Chapel schools are projected to become K-6 schools with current grades seven and eight to begin attending classes at New Site under a later phase of the current restructuring plan.
“You are not accomplishing anything,” Davis added. And he stated most of the children would likely attend classes at Thrasher. “There’s not that many more kids (in high school) over there.”
He added, “Why take away from Jumpertown to build up Thrasher?”
Davis added the measure would also be taking students away from a high performing school and sending them to one that is not.
In recent accountability ratings, Jumpertown was rated successful while Thrasher School is currently on academic watch.
The Jumpertown group also had legal counsel in the audience. Booneville attorney, Daniel Tucker, confirmed he is representing concerned citizens of Jumpertown.
And one long-time teaching instructor, opposed to the plan, said a second meeting at Jumpertown among concerned citizens to discuss legal options would follow the school board meeting.
Recently voting for the current plan to restructure were trustees Steve Taylor, Perry Walden and Ronny Kesler. Taylor and Walden made no comment before the Jumpertown crowd but Kesler apologized for voting aye to the plan and added he did what he thought was best for Wheeler School, which he represents, even though he has been against restructuring in the past.
In an earlier plan which was rescinded, Kesler had voted no when it called for grades 9-12 to be eliminated at Jumpertown and Wheeler. He left Monday night’s meeting early.
Trustee Lisa Slack voted against the current restructuring plan and she said she was glad to see the crowd in attendance and thanked them for participating.
However, she said restructuring was something to consider, citing state budget cuts in Mississippi. “I would like to see more consistency with the board,” she added.
Candi Elliott addressed the board. She had concerns about lost scholarships, that a New Site projected building would cost more than alleged savings. She said what was done was other than for the best interest of the students at Jumpertown. Elliott alleged Trustee Taylor is still upset about consolidation on the east side of the county 30 years ago. To Trustee Walden, she stated it is obvious he has something against Jumpertown. To Kesler, Elliott stated he did what he had to to save his own school.
Karley Strickland, a junior at Jumpertown, also spoke. She asked that juniors be allowed to have their senior year at Jumpertown. She added she could have graduated early but had wanted to participate in many school activities.
“Now, three people have voted to take that all away from us.”
Kayla Wade, a 2003 graduate of Jumpertown, said she disagreed that the plan would offer savings, that the existing campuses will still have to be kept up.
She said a false economical excuse was given, which is not factual.
Wade said Jumpertown is high performing. Thrasher is not and she asked for an explanation of why Jumpertown students should be forced to attend another school that is lower performing.
She concluded. “Remember, in Prentiss County, the students come first. Right Mr. Smith?”
Matt Smith is superintendent of the school district. He responded that they do indeed.
All three speakers received applause for their statements.
In other business, the board:
• Tabled approving minutes of the Jan. 18 and Jan. 20 meeting. The Jan. 20 meeting was the one in which the new restructuring plan was approved;
• Heard from Supt. Smith who said the state superintendent, Tom Burnham, had estimated budget cuts would be from 12-15 percent, pushing $2 million;
• Approved William Copeland buying timber on the Pisgah school campus;
• Approved the Prentiss County School District Test Security Plan;
• Approved salvaging equipment at New Site — a Mobi No. 3198 and a driver education car trade-in;
• Approved a revised mileage reimbursement rate of 50 cents per mile;
• Approved as substitutes: Kadee Barber, Samantha Moore, Shannon Garces, and Nicole Ford;
• Accepted Robert Stennett to continue as a busdriver at Marietta and withdrawal of the custodial position;
• Approved a trip to Memphis for the Jumpertown FFA chapter;
• Accepted Jay Van Winkle’s resignation as bus driver and hired James Jackson as a bus driver for New Site; Nicky Marshall as bus driver for Hills Chapel for remainder of school year and approved Nicholas Moore, as a para-professional for Hills Chapel Jr. High baseball team for 2010;
• Tabled the Prentiss County district’s communication policy;
• Tabled recommendations of principals for the 2010-2011 school year until the next meeting;
• Went into executive session to discuss a personnel issue and a minor issue.
Action was taken on the issue involving a minor but it was not disclosed. No action was taken regarding the personnel matter.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be on Monday, Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Prentiss County Courtroom.