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Mississippi school district on path back to local control

Mississippi school district on path back to local control

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi school district under state governance is on the path back to local control.

The State Board of Education voted Thursday to begin the process to return the Tunica County School District to local officials. The vote triggers an 18-month process that begins with selecting applicants to serve on the local school board.

The district has been under state conservatorship since 2015 after audits revealed it had violated 25 of the 31 accreditation standards reviewed by the Mississippi Department of Education. Serious deficiencies were found in special education, federal programs, instructional programs, career technical education and district governance, state officials said. These findings prompted former Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant to declare a state of emergency, putting the district under the control of interim superintendent Dr. Margie Pulley.

“Dr. Pulley has done an outstanding job leading the administrators, teachers and staff of the Tunica County School District in service to students,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Her student-centered, data-driven focus and strong management transformed the district from a state of emergency to an academically strong, fiscally sound organization. Most importantly, her effective instructional leadership significantly improved student achievement.”

In a news release, state officials said Pulley brought all accreditation standards into compliance. Under her leadership, the district’s accountability grade improved to a C after a four-year track record of D and F grades, state officials said.

Pulley will continue to lead the district through Dec. 31, 2023.

Along with the Tunica County School District, there are currently four other school districts under state control: Noxubee County School District, Holmes County Consolidated School District, Humphreys County School District and Yazoo City School District.

State law gives the State Board of Education authority to return a state-run district to local control when the district has corrected all its deficiencies and has improved its academic performance.

The new TCSD board will begin serving as voting members on Jan. 1, 2024.

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