News last week that the one of the first major deadlines in the Mississippi Legislature had killed a bill that would consolidate Houlka and Okolona School has been met with cheers and jeers by folks across this community.
Senator Russell Jolly’s comment that joining a failing school district with a passing school district is not fair is correct. Jolly serves on the Senate Education Committee. We have to believe he has a little better insight on this law than most.
Representative Preston Sullivan’s quote that Okolona and Houlka want separate schools that represent their respective communities was also wisely stated.
But both men – men who know their constituents and who know the politics of taxes and education – also said they were open to some kind of consolidation of administrative and general services such as food, vocational and specialized education services. Both also said they felt schools should stay open in their respective communities and keep their mascots and athletic teams.
We think this situation requires a long, hard look and state politics should stay out of this for another year.
We also think some kind of consolidation plan needs to be readied. With conservative Republicans in charge in Jackson right now, this issue will not go away.
We do believe Okolona came out from under state conservatorship too quickly. If that district is taken over by the state again, Houston, Houlka, Aberdeen, Amory and possibly Shannon schools could get Okolona students.
We also believe Houlka schools, while doing a good job with what they have, are financially strapped and will probably not grow to become the “A” school system that community deserves. Lack of a football field and and VoTech may not be the best reason for consolidation, but a pay-raise for teachers and staff has merit.
And of course there is the threat of a charter school landing in Chickasaw County one of these days. We have heard whispers of one coming to the eastern edge of our community for some time.
Most of all we feel Chickasaw County citizens need to take hold of this situation and not lawmakers from other part of the state who don’t have our best interests at heart.
Consolidation of Houlka and Okolona schools may not be the solution. But if things don’t change, changes will be made and they probably won’t be made by us.