STARKVILLE, Mississippi — The conservator for the Oktibbeha County School District has canceled a proposed $13.2 million local school bond issue.
Margie Pulley, who was named conservator in January 2013, took the action Monday night after the school board was told opponents gathered enough signatures to force an election on the bond issue, WCBI-TV in Columbus (http://bit.ly/1HSpmbp ) reports.
A school bond referendum would require approval of 60 percent of those voting.
The school district was planning for a new campus for grades 6-7 and a pre-kindergarten program in a partnership with Mississippi State University.
The state placed the county school district under conservatorship in September 2012, primarily due to low student academic achievement and removed the superintendent and the board. The state has since ordered Oktibbeha schools to consolidate with the Starkville School District by July 2015.
Starkville schools Superintendent Lewis Holloway was disappointed.
"A little bit disheartening the county never had a bond referendum in 30 years and we were trying to maximize these funds to improve the school," Holloway said.
Holloway says this is not the end.
"We are going to start all over and re-look at the amount that we'd asked for and consider what's the best option as we go forward," said Holloway.
Jennifer Gregory with the Greater Starkville Development Partnership said money would have helped those who need it most.
"At the core of this are the children. There are kids ... going to schools in facilities with water leaks, with damage, with no extra curriculum activities, no band, no art," said Gregory.
MSU previously announced it would donate $5 million and almost 43 acres of land for the new school. Even with that donation, the plan still requires $10 million from local sources and $10 million from the Legislature.
The remainder of the local bond issue would go toward the purchase of technology — laptops and SMARTboards for teachers and students primarily within the former county district — and buses to improve the consolidated district's internal infrastructure.
Information from: WCBI-TV, http://www.wcbi.com