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STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI)- When the Mississippi legislature began talking earlier this year about forcing the Starkville and Oktibbeha County School Districts to consolidate, the discussion sparked worry and misgivings across the county. However, as work on the merger has been going on for several months, the talk is focusing more on long-term opportunities.

That was the focus Wednesday morning with business and civic leaders at the Hilton Garden Inn in Starkville. Officials with The Greater Starkville Development Partnership informed people about the economic benefits of the merger.

“The Greater Starkville Development partnership knows that education is very important and economic development of the community and so parents for public schools was asked to come and present what the consolidation effort means in terms of economic development to our community,” said Michelle Jones, President of Parents for Public Schools of Starkville.

Jeremiah Dumas, Vice President of Parents for Public Schools of Starkville and one of the panelist at the event, highlighted the financial impacts.

“When you look at the funding mechanisms for any school district you look at the importance of what we need to do to grow our infrastructure, the key there is a growing tax base. We have to fundamentally embrace community and economic development so that it then, in turn, increases our opportunity from a funding perspective within our school district,” said Dumas.

Local residents began a commission alongside the Mississippi Department of Education after lawmakers passed the consolidation bill during the legislative session. Starkville School Superintendent Lewis Holloway says the entire county is committed to improving education, but there are still several things leaders need to address before consolidation begins.

“We’re looking at options of how to bring county students in. The question is though, how to handle 7th and 8th grade students because Starkville does not have the capacity to just bring them in. There’s possibly an option of building onto our middle school but it’s already very tight so it’s not something we want to do, however, depending on the economics of the situation you may have to choose lesser things.All of those issues are on the table,” said Holloway.

Dumas believes the future of consolidation is bright.

“It won’t be a challenge for anyone. I think those that have been disadvantaged because of lack of resources will be given resources now that will help them prosper so I think this is a great opportunity for all,” said Dumas.

Consolidation goes into effect July 2015. The next consolidation meeting is Thursday at 5pm at the County School District board office.


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