Montgomery County ends school transfers, some parents object

School Board sets special meeting to reconsider new policy
A group of Montgomery County parents and concerned citizens have asked the School Board to reconsider their decision to revoke the transfer policy that had allowed children to attend Grenada, French Camp, and Winona schools.

According to Carolyn Swanson, Montgomery County Superintendent of Schools, a large group of parents attended the Monday night School Board meeting to state their disagreement with the no-transfer policy. Swanson explained that since 1996, the Board had allowed parents to enroll their children in other schools, as long as the other schools agreed.

But in October 2000, Swanson said the Board rescinded that transfer arrangement, and since that time has issued no new transfer permits. The Board told parents that this fall, their children would have to attend Montgomery County schools, regardless of former permission.

The move to rescind the transfers was made primarily for budgetary reasons, Swanson said. “Our schools get funding based on average daily attendance (ADA) figures,” she said.

Attendance in Montgomery County schools has been declining for varied reasons, including parents’ convenience (parents who want to drop their child off at school on their way to work in another county), and lack of extracurricular activities. “Montgomery County does not have funds to provide extra activities,” Swanson said. “We don’t have bands, extensive sports programs, or art instruction.”

Because of the overwhelming public sentiment to the transfer policy, Swanson said the Board took the matter under advisement, and will hold a special meeting April 19 to discuss the matter. “The Board had a lot on the agenda Monday night,” Swanson said. “We wanted to give this issue the time it deserves.”

7th & 8th grades

The Board also voted to send Duck Hill seventh and eighth graders to Kilmichael next fall.

Swanson said the seventh and eighth graders are already being bused to Kilmichael every day to attend state mandated instruction in Career Discovery and Computer Discovery curriculums. “The children are spending at least 50 minutes a day on the road,” Swanson said. “They’re losing valuable instructional time.”

“These two courses are funded through Vocational Education,” Swanson said. “They won’t put the program in Duck Hill because of the small numbers.”

Swanson said not only will it save the district money to send the seventh and eighth graders to Kilmichael, it will also be better for the children. “I feel it will be easier on them (the children) to be at one school all day,” Swanson said.

The Board’s decision to take the two grades from Duck Hill, along with their decision not to renew the contract for J.C. Morgan, principal of Duck Hill Elementary School, has some Duck Hill residents wondering if they will have a school at all. But Swanson said there are no plans to close the Duck Hill school. “I want to keep K-6 at Duck Hill,” Swanson said. “We’re just going to make some adjustments.”

Swanson declined to comment on the Board’s decision not to renew Mr. Morgan’s contract.

J.C. Morgan also declined to comment, stating he has retained attorney Webb Franklin of Greenwood to represent him.

Future consolidation

Swanson said the Grenada School District is a model for other counties thinking about consolidation. “I encourage parents to be working toward that end,” Swanson said. “We are going to continue to discuss why Montgomery County can’t be consolidated with the Winona city schools.”

©The Daily Sentinel Star 2007

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