Thursday, May 18, 2006
Group requests joining of school districts
By SUE WATSON
Marshall County Concerned Citizens Coalition met with the county school district board last week to call for consolidation of city and county school administrations.
Making a presentation on behalf of several groups supporting a single school district in Marshall County were Willie Jeffries, pastor of Strawberry Church, and W.A. McMillan, a member of the Coalition.
Jeffries said consolidation could offer a better chance of “crystallizing the positives for the enrichment of education.”
Other possible enhancements in the 10-point presentation included:
McMillan called for a feasibility study of the idea by an outside group “to see what benefits in education and budgets would come forth.”
He recommended the two school boards meet to discuss the merger.
Two new schools may be needed
Superintendent Donald Randolph provided a growth report gathered from interested developers and from talks with Bill Renick with the Marshall County Industrial Development Authority.
He said the school district could experience a sudden increase in enrollment due to residential development in the northern portion of the county. The school district could need two new schools to handle the growth, he said.
One developer has plans to build 500 houses at the end of Quinn Road over a five-year period, he said. The single development could dump 150 new students into the school district the first year and at the end of five years bring 750 - about 1.5 students per household - to the district, he said.
Other residential developments are expected in the Mt. Carmel Road area and at Mt. Pleasant, he said.
“We know where the population goes is where the county has to build schools,” Randolph said. “So, instead of seven schools, we would have nine.”
Figures obtained from DeSoto County estimate the cost of building a 9-12 school at $20 million and $35 million for a K-12 school, he said.
“We are at a point of the chicken and the egg,” said Randolph. “What would we do if we had 150 new students in August? Mobile units would be all we could do for that.”
Randolph estimated it could take 10 years to save money for a new school by increasing the millage from 34.6 mills now, gradually up to the 55 mill cap limit. The district can add only 7 additional mills a year, Randolph said.
The current assessment of 34.6 mills generates $3.5 million a year and 55 mills would bring in about $5.5 million a year, Randolph said.
School Board president Pat Woods agreed, citing potential residential development of 200 acres in subdivision on Strickland Road and another 100 acres at Moore Plantation.
“We have so many developers coming to buy land, who else knows what it’s going to do?” Woods said. “I do not see how we could get by without a new school.”
Woods said older retirees would not want the increased tax burden brought on by a new school bond debt.
“Someone has to become a good salesman, to present this to the county,” said Randolph. “When they (industrial, commercial, residential developers) come, they want to know what type of educational services are going to be provided. Our educational system is going to kind of burst open (expand rapidly).”
The Marshall County School Board begins its Fiscal Year 2006-07 budget hearings June 1 at 2 p.m., Randolph said. Supplemental teacher salary structures of neighboring school districts are being studied for comparison to what the county has offered.
Randolph said he is pleased with the administration of subject area and Mississippi Curriculum Tests this year.
“We had great participation daily with 100 percent testing and very few make-up tests,” he said. “We are awaiting the end of June for our report card.”
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