State plans to overhaul school district

The State Department of Education last week announced plans to overhaul the academically and financially troubled Hazlehurst City School District. The state plans to do away with the school board and evaluate the rest of the district’s personnel.

“We’re still studying things and making decisions,” said Stanley Blackmon, conservator. “We’re still in the planning stages – planning and implementation stages.”

Blackmon confirmed that they are “looking at personnel” but would not confirm reports that some employees were let go last week, saying he could not talk about personnel matters.

“We’re going to make decisions  that are in the best interests of the students,” said Blackmon, to determine the instructional and operational direction of the district.

This week the state will begin the paperwork process to abolish the 1700-student district. The students will continue to attend the same schools, but the state is taking legal steps to decide the leadership of the district.

The Hazlehurst school board consists of three members appointed by the city aldermen and two members elected by residents of the district outside the city limits. One of the appointed board members, Dr. Bettie McDaniel, resigned during the summer.

Elected board members must be removed in a special election. The appointed board members will require action from the board of aldermen.

The regular school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday night was cancelled, according to Blackmon.

Hazlehurst’s three schools are  accredited as Level 2 or Under-Performing. A $1.6 million deficit was reported at the end of the budget year. The state took over the troubled district in May under a declaration of emergency, appointing a conservator to oversee operations.

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