GSDP BOARD UNANIMOUSLY SUPPORTS ISSUING OF COUNTY SCHOOL BONDS
In their regular meeting on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, the GSDP Board voted unanimously to support the issuance of bonds in the Oktibbeha County School District. The Board believes this avenue of local funding made available by the Mississippi Legislature in its 2014 session is vital to the successful consolidation of our two school districts. The bond, authorized at up to $13.2 million, will include approximately $3 million to be used for needed improvements to the two elementary campuses of the current OCSD, modernized bus transportation, and to provide a laptop and smart board for each classroom in the current County district. Additionally, $10 million of the bond is set to help in funding a proposed MSU-Starkville Oktibbeha School District Partnership School that will house grades 6 and 7 of the new district as well as the university’s College of Education.
“During the regular session of the Greater Starkville Development Partnership Board meeting this morning, the Board acted on the Committee of 100’s recommendation and was unanimously supportive of the current proposed reverse referendum of issuing bonds in the Oktibbeha County School district for the school consolidation efforts,” said Richard Hilton, GSDP Board President.
The Committee of 100 is the Partnership’s highest level of private sector contributors and represents some of the most engaged business leaders in the community. With the Committee’s urging and full support, the GSDP has jointly launched a reverse petition effort with Parents for Public Schools of Starkville as a means of nullifying a petition to block the bond submitted to the OCSD Conservator on Monday, February 12 and allowing the issuing of bonds to move forward. This bold step in supporting local funding for a successful consolidation comes as a necessary action in support of quality public schools, one of the key components in achieving the Partnership’s goals for economic and business development.
“The Partnership has maintained for years that quality public education is a priority and a vital part of our economic and business development efforts,” said Jennifer Gregory, CEO of the Partnership. “the board’s unanimous decision on Wednesday is an extension of that core value. We are at a crucial turning point in our community, and this funding is required to make consolidation successful.”
Dr. Lewis Holloway, Superintendent of the Starkville School District, who, along with OCSD Conservator Dr. Margie Pulley, is an ex-officio member of the GSDP Board, shared his thoughts on the need for funding.
“To be successful, we must have adequate funding sources to deliver innovative and engaging instruction through dynamic teaching and technological support in classrooms and buildings that provide appropriate space for learning to occur,” Holloway said. “The cost of educating all children is a responsibility we share, and the tax burden should be equitable among all residents of Oktibbeha County.”
Dr. Holloway will become the Superintendent of the new district when consolidation occurs on July 1, 2015.
6 REASONS GSDP SUPPORTS LOCAL FUNDING THROUGH OCSD BONDS
Robust and growing economic development begins with an educated workforce at multiple skill levels. We can best serve the future of our own community by ensuring that ALL children, regardless of the school they attend, have equal access to the highest quality education our tax dollars can provide. As representatives of the business community who daily invest in building a greater Starkville and Oktibbeha County, our highest imperative must be a commitment to educate those under our charge. For, they ARE the future of Starkville.
Equitable Tax Burden
The greater Starkville community has historically born the burden of two school districts. While constituents of the city school district have consistently made commitments to funding education (with a current bonded indebtedness of 14.11 mills), the county school district has historically not committed to taxing itself for educational improvements (a current bonded indebtedness of 3 mills). This disparity in bonding mirrors the differences in facility and technology opportunities available in the two districts. Issuing bonds in Oktibbeha County School District will bring the two districts closer to an equitable tax burden, particularly when millage is equalized upon consolidation in July 2015. This equalization is a huge step forward for the community in embracing the joint task of supporting one school district with unity.
MSU Recruitment and Retention
Through faculty peer input, the university has identified key areas of concern in recruiting the best practitioners, researchers and instructors to MSU. A more robust public school system, particularly one impacting the current county district (where MSU is located) consistently appears in faculty feedback. As partnerships between the university and the school district expand to include a Partnership School, opportunities for better recruitment and retention of faculty members expand as well.
Improved Quality of Life
In 2014, the LINK (our economic development partner with the City of Starkville) released a report on the viability and strategic economic development needs for Starkville and Oktibbeha County. At the top of the list of recommendations was an improved quality of life. By every measure from economic development professionals, the single most important factor in a community’s perceived (and actual) quality of life is a quality system of public education. While, a struggling district in conservatorship is a blight to our efforts, simply renaming the two districts as a single school system is not enough. To gain the most positive impact to our quality of life indicators, that consolidated district needs to be greater than the sum of its parts. As a public school system in the backyard of the state’s largest and leading research and development university, that district must be ground-breaking.
Economic & Business Development
As we’ve already indicated, our research and experience has shown that the quality of public education in a community has a direct correlation with economic development opportunity, not only in terms of quality of life, but also in workforce training and employee retention. Perhaps the most quantifiable impact of a successful consolidation may be the likely increase in property values throughout the county, allowing for a greater return on business investments.
Leading the Pack
The lion’s share of the current bonding measure is targeted toward the construction of a 6-7 MSU Partnership School to be located on the campus of Mississippi State University. Conceived as a state-of-the-art facility that will allow our children to be among the first in Mississippi (and the nation) to experience the newest research-based teaching practices, the school will also serve as an incubator for improving education techniques across the state. As one of only three Rural Education Centers in the nation, the Partnership School will be one more area where MSU-Starkville will be at the forefront of research and innovation — where we want to be.
SUPPORTING THE REVERSE PETITION
GSDP has jointly launched the reverse petition with PPS of Starkville because of our commitment to quality public education and because we believe the monies are necessary for successful consolidation. While the Partnership respects the right of citizens to petition taxing authorities for ballot approval of bonding, we also recognize that often those decisions are made based on erroneous or incomplete information. The counter petition is a legal means for citizens to withdraw an objection to the funding.
If you signed the original petition…
This is a crucial turning point for consolidation efforts and the potential they provide for our community’s return on investment in education. GSDP respectfully asks all Partnership members and citizens who may have signed the original petition to reconsider their objection and sign the downloadable counter petition withdrawing their objection to the bonding measure.
Counter petitions are also available for citizens to sign at the Partnership office at 200 East Main Street in Starkville. Only signees of the original petition are asked to sign the counter measure, and we request that all counter petitions be submitted to our office by 11 a.m. on Monday, February 2 for delivery to the OCSD office prior to their regular meeting.
If you did not sign the original petition…
Thank you for your commitment to local funding for public education and your recognition of the impact it has on economic development throughout Oktibbeha County. You can help us spread the word about the reverse petition, disseminate important facts, and embrace the excitement of the consolidation plan by sharing this post or the fact sheets included below on your social media accounts.
RESOURCES FOR REVIEW
Below are a series of fact sheets and documents that have been published over the last year outlining various areas of the consolidation effort. In addition, we’ve included links to the original petition as well as copies of a counter petition that may be signed.