Not much hoopla with MDE message
Late last week the Mississippi Department of Education forwarded a press release to the Courier and several other media outlets concerning the Hazlehurst City School District. Later this fall, the announcement says, MDE will consider returning the three schools of HCSD to local control.
The district is one of several in the state currently in conservatorship. HCSD was taken over in June of 2008 after failing nearly all of the financial, managerial and student performance-related standards required by the state to remain under local control.
As far as this latest news is concerned, the state took the low-profile approach. No presser was called. No big wigs from the agency came to Hazlehurst for a public meeting with parents, teachers, staff and other stakeholders of the district–although I full well expect that to happen when the decision is made to re-establish the district. The announcement was made fairly quietly; however, Hazlehurst’s own Rep. Gregory Holloway, Dist. 76, has been heavily involved with the process to turn the district back over to local control.
This more structured approach of relaying information has been the preferred way for the conservatorship of HCSD to be handled, at least since the initial ‘blow-and-go’ approach of the first year or so. Then-director of MDE Hank Bounds held a quite frank meeting with everyone and explained the hard-hitting but necessary steps that would be taken so the district could firstly avoid bankruptcy. Bounds backed up what he said by appointing hard-nosed Stanley Blackmon as conservator, who was very straight-forward with the local media. Jay Reeves followed Blackmon in mid-2009 and was able to shed a little more light on things in his own way.
Since late summer 2010, when Reeves was replaced, MDE’s approach has been to better filter information, attempting to keep the focus on student achievement and classroom successes. Striking the deal with Barksdale Institute to provide intense reading and learning programs was one way.
Furthermore, the state has had an uphill battle dealing with some of the local community ‘leaders’, some of whom lost much of their power when the district was dissolved. MDE eventually just decided not to deal with them. So, the way this announcement was presented comes as no surprise.
Joe Buck Coates