Three more Mississippi school districts appear to be on track to be taken over by the state. But, the districts are questioning the entire conservatorship process.
The Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation voted to declare states of emergency in the Claiborne, Yazoo City, and Leflore County school districts yesterday.
Commission member Lee Childress says the districts are consistently showing poor academics and potentially dangerous environments for the students.
"It is imperative that all children in Mississippi be afforded the opportunity for quality education where they can succeed in future life. And we have demonstrated performance here among schools and districts for the last two years that those schools are failing and noit meeting the standards that are proscribed by the Mississippi Department of Education," Childress said.
But the school districts are pushing back against those claims, questioning the process and conservatorship itself.
Lefore County's attorney Willie Perkins says the district was given only a few days notice of the meeting and did not have a fair chance to defend itself.
"This commission has the authority to appoint a representative to conduct a hearing where there is testimony given by witnesses brought on behalf of the district. Where the district can produce evidence. Where the district can question and cross-examine," Perkins said.
Yazoo City Superintendent Dr. Arthur Cartlidge says the state has not proven that it can turn around failing districts.
"No one bit. Number one, when you bring a new leader in things tend to dive anyway. Then it is going to take them just a year to learn the system. Then it is going to take them two or three years to turn the district around," Cartlidge
Seven school districts are currently under department of education control.
The state does have a mixed track record with conservators having taken over one district two times and returning another to local control while it still had a failing grade.
The decision sets up a state of emergency vote later this week before the full school board.
Governor Phil Bryant would have to sign off on a plan for the state to take control of a district.