A Case Study of the State Takeover of the Sunflower County School District
Vanderford, Paula Allen
AdvisorHare, R. Dwight
CommitteeDavis, James E.
Brocato, D. Kay
The performance of the nation‟s public schools continues to be a concern of policymakers, educators, and parents. Stakeholders cite the lack of academic achievement, disruptive student behavior, and failure to provide students with a safe and orderly school environment as evidence of being unsuccessful. To ensure school districts, schools, administrators, teachers, and students meet acceptable performance standards, states are implementing a variety of accountability policies. Two of the more controversial accountability approaches are state takeovers of local school districts and the reconstitution of schools. At least 29 states have enacted policies that allow the takeover of a school district. Changes in statute during the 1991 legislative session authorized the first takeover (conservatorship) section of the law in the state of Mississippi. Sections 37-17-6 and 37-17-7 of the Mississippi Code of 1972, as amended, describes the rationale for the initiation of the takeover process. To date, the Commission on School Accreditation (CSA) and the State Board of Education (SBE) have requested the Governor declare a state of emergency on 13 occasions in 12 Mississippi school districts. The purpose of this study was to determine what led to the state takeover of Sunflower County School District (SCSD), determine the takeover process used by the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), and make recommendations to the MDE that will improve the sustainability of the success of the state takeover process after the conservator is removed from the district and the district regains control. The findings presented in this study are based on the analysis of data collected during the on-site evaluation of the school district. The SCSD was not fully compliant with any one of the 37 process standards as published in the Mississippi Public School Accountability Standards, 2009. Governor Haley Barbour signed a Proclamation in response to the Resolutions of the CSA and the SBE. The Proclamation declared that a state of emergency did exist in the SCSD that jeopardized the safety, security, and educational interests of the students enrolled in that district. The state of emergency was related to serious violations of accreditation standards, state law, and federal law.