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Commission Says State's 2nd Largest School District in State of Emergency
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Paula Vanderford, MDE and Frederick Murray, Interim Supt., JPS
Desare Frazier

Mississippi's Department of Education is one step closer to taking over the 2nd largest school district in the state. MPB's Desare Frazier reports.

In a day long meeting, the Mississippi School Accreditation Commission heard from the state department of education and Jackson Public Schools about the issues facing the district. The department argued JPS is in an extreme state of emergency. They cited poor class instruction, lack of monitoring during testing, poor graduation records and compelling teachers to change grades. A reoccurring concern is special education students not being reevaluated and losing federally funded services. They say the district may have to return $2 million in unallocated funds to the government. Rosaline McCoy is president of the Jackson's PTA. She admits there are challenges.

"Give us a fair shot. Okay, if you call us out we agree. We've got the challenges or whatever. Tell me what it is. Give me the room and the ability per se to fix it," said McCoy.

Interim superintendent Frederick Murray says they've allocated 90 percent of the $2 million in question and they have a correction action plan. He says it's unprecedented they are implementing it while being audited and he says there are errors in the report.  Murray says the plan addresses the 24 out of 32 standards cited in the report. He says they've reorganized the district, hired 14 new principals, provide more training for teachers and created a compliance department to monitor the plan. He asked for more time, but the commission refused. Heather Westerfield is the chair.

"We don't want to make a decision like this but in the long run we felt we had to do what was best for the children in the district" said Westerfield.

Interim Superintendent Frederick Murray. "We appreciate everything that's been done for those supporters of JPS and again, we move on to the next step," said Murray.

That's today when the state board of education meets to discuss the possible takeover of JPS. Jackson's mayor says the commission had already made up its mind ahead of the meeting. He says, they plan to continue to fight a takeover.