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STARKVILLE, Miss. — As WCBI first said during the weekend, changes have been expected to a proposed school consolidation bill that would merge the Oktibbeha County and Starkville schools. Those changes have been made. Below is a synopsis from the Starkville School District:

Dear SSD Stakeholders,

The Starkville School District has carefully studied House Bill 716, which would consolidate the Starkville and Oktibbeha County school districts.The bill may or may not become a law.

At the request of legislators who filed the bill, SSD’s leaders have met with lawmakers three times in recent days, and the draft has been revised in response to input from our district leaders and public school supporters. The SSD Board of Trustees has not met and does not have an official position on the bill. However, as a District, we do want to keep you informed about what we have learned. Should the bill pass, we want to make sure the Starkville School District is in the best position to be successful. Please remember this proposal is in the preliminary stages of development and could change.

What would happen to the current SSD school board?

The amended bill would allow for the current Starkville School District Board of Trustees to remain in place. However, for the term that expires in March 2015, the Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors would be responsible for making the appointment. Three board members would continue to be appointed by the Starkville Board of Aldermen. One board member will continue to be elected from the added territory which is outside the city limits but inside the boundaries of the current school district.

What would happen to the current SSD superintendent and administration?

The amended version of House Bill 716 allows for the current SSD superintendent and administration to remain in place. The superintendent and the school board of the Oktibbeha County School District were removed from office when the District was taken over by the state in August.

How would the consolidation bill impact class size and student enrollment?

As amended, House Bill 716 requires school district boundaries and attendance zones to remain in place, so the boundaries of the Oktibbeha County School District and the Starkville School District would continue to exist. Students would continue to be required to attend the school located in the attendance zone where they live.

How would House Bill 716 impact school accountability ratings?

For the next five years, the Starkville School District and the Oktibbeha County School District would continue to receive separate accountability ratings.

When would the changes outlined in the bill take effect?

The newly organized district would officially be formed on July 1, 2015. However, planning for the changes would begin immediately if a bill is passed.

Will consolidation put a strain on SSD’s financial resources?

If a bill passes, it should contain additional funds. The Starkville School District has requested additional funds to compensate for the much needed improvements to infrastructure and technology in the county schools, ranging from roofs to SMART Boards to teacher laptops.

However, a specific dollar amount has not yet been finalized. Starkville would receive the County’s MAEP allotment from the state, federal funds currently provided to the County, and the County’s ad valorem tax collections.

What is the next step?

The legislature has a detailed process that is outlined in state law for passage of a bill. The first step is filing a bill, which has already been done. House Bill 716 is currently pending before the House Education Committee. The committee has until Tuesday, February 5, to pass the bill out of committee and send it to the full House. If it passes in the House, the bill would go to the Senate, where there are several more steps. Should the House and Senate have different versions of the bill, it would go to conference where both chambers of the legislature would try to reach a mutual agreement. So, it is very important to understand that this is a process that has only just begun.

Can I see the amended bill?

The amended version of House Bill 716 will not be posted online for public view until it has been approved by full House Education Committee.

What can I do?

If you want to contact your legislators, you can find a list of legislators that represent the Starkville School District at http://www.msparentscampaign.org/mx/hm.asp?id=Starkville .

What are SSD’s initial thoughts about House Bill 716?

The Starkville School District is committed to providing the best education possible for students in our schools. The first priority of the SSD continues to be the students currently enrolled in our District. The Starkville School District firmly believes that successful communities are those that unite to strongly support their public schools, and this is critical as we move forward together.

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