Two high schools for North Bolivar Consolidated Featured

The question of where middle and high school students will attend classes in the North Bolivar Consolidated School District on Aug. 16 has been answered. John F. Kennedy Memorial High School, Broad Street High School and Shelby Middle School will all remain open. On July 31, Chancellor W.M. Sanders decreed that since JFK United had filed for a ruling in the Mississippi Supreme Court, the district should be halted from merging schools for the 2018-2019 year. Legal council for JFK United, a group of alumni and Mound Bayou residents who oppose the merger, filed for appeal in the Mississippi Supreme Court and a stay in the chancery court after the Mississippi Department of Education sent a letter to Sanders. The letter declared, "Decisions to close or reconfigure schools are thus within the sound discretion of local school boards. The MDE does not review or approve decisions of local school boards to close and/or reconfigure schools unless a school district's corporate structure or boundaries are altered implicating Miss. Code Ann 37-7-113. The MDE is unaware of any aspect of the District's plan altering its corporate structure or geographical boundaries, thus there is no MDE approval required." Sanders had granted a stay from reducing the number of schools in the district until hearing from MDE, after which the district was free to proceed with consolidation of the schools. However with an appeal waiting, Sanders wrote, “The petitioners' emergency motion to stay Final Decree is hereby granted upon Petitioners posting a $10,000 supersedeas bond with the Clerk of the Court." According to the dictionary, a supersedeas bond, or appeal bond, ensures that original judgments are paid if an appeal is unsuccessful. The appellant must file a bond that covers the cost of the original judgment (in case the appeal were to fail) in addition to the court costs associated with the appeal. "That bond has already been paid. We had the money in our account from donations that came in from around the world," said Gil Thompson, chairman of JFK United. "As long as the stay is in place there will be two high schools," said John Hooks, attorney for the school district. "We filed a motion with the Mississippi Supreme Court to lift the stay that has been granted by the chancellor but we do not know when that motion will be heard," said Hooks. "Mr. Hooks and the district are grasping at straws,” said Thompson. “They are obsessed with closing JFK at any cost. “They have this crazy idea that they don't have enough money to operate, but their own financial consultant said they had enough money for two years and then they would be in financial trouble," said Thompson. District Superintendent Maurice Smith originally said merging of the schools was an attempt to decrease the cost of personnel and help the district reduce spending. In a previous story he said, "Mr. Smith Sparks (a financial consultant hired by the district) told us that we are exceptionally high in personnel. We have about 30 students per grade, so we need two sections per grade for each school. We are paying two principals, two office staffs; we have two of everything. "We have five schools in this district, and we are spending 95 percent of our budget on personnel. We need to consolidate to get out of debt. More importantly, consolidating will allow us to offer a more enriched curriculum. We will have a chance to provide more advanced placement or dual enrollment classes," Smith said. "The district is just trying to push this consolidation through and they are willing to spend a million dollars more to fix Broad Street than it would cost to fix JFK," said Thompson. "The problem is that you aren’t comparing apples to apples. There is more classroom capacity at Broad Street. That fact was not refuted at the hearing," said John Hooks. Broad Street has 32 classrooms and John F. Kennedy has 22. "There are less than 300 students registered for both high schools right now so it is ridiculous to say there's not enough room at JFK. At its peak, JFK housed 798 students. The board needs to let this go. They are ignoring the needs of children at both schools by continuing to push for this consolidation," Thompson said. "I'd like to know where he's getting those numbers. He should have to back up the statements he's giving. They (JFK United) have lost all the way through and all they are trying to do is delay this case so we can't open school," said Smith. In a story from January 2018 Smith gave enrolment numbers for JFK as 228 students and Broad Street as 159 students.

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