L'ton school board supports consolidation

The Lumberton School District’s Board of Trustees said Thursday night it supports a proposal for consolidation from the Lamar County School Board and “will continue a conversation,” Lumberton Superintendent Dr. Linda Smith said after the board meeting.

The proposal would keep the current Lumberton schools as they are and place them under the direction of the Lamar County School District. Lumberton is under legislative order to abolish its district by July 2019.

Smith said the Lumberton School Board authorized board President Al Young and her to “continue the conversation” over the Lamar County proposal.

“The proposal was very well received,” Smith said after the Thursday night meeting. “There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered. This is a way to start the dialogue and we plan to move the process forward.”

The Lamar County School Board unanimously endorsed the voluntary consolidation plan during a special meeting March 3, calling for the changes to occur in the 2018-19 school year.

Under Senate Bill 2500 of the 2016 Legislature, which became law on July 1, 2016, the Lumberton School District would not exist after July 1, 2019, and would be divided between the Lamar County Board of Education and the Poplarville School District according to the county line.

Smith said last week when she received the proposal that it appears to be in line with what Lumberton officials wanted.

“If you’ve listened to me for the past year or so, my focus has been on taking care of the students, families, community and our staff,” she said. “This proposal seems to meet most of those goals.”

Lamar County Superintendent Tess Smith said last week she supports the proposal.

“To me, this is the best thing that we can come up with, so I hope it works out,” she said. “If we could bring this school in its entirety into our family, it would be so much better on everybody.”

In addition to keeping the existing Lumberton schools intact, the proposal calls for:

• The Lamar County Board of Supervisors/Circuit Clerk will determine representation on the Lamar County School Board of Trustees after consolidation.

• Tax assessment/debt/assets shall be allocated equitably among all property.

• The Lamar County School District shall have the full ability to structure curriculum and programs to match the existing county structure.

• The Lamar County School District shall have the full authority to staff the consolidated district according to LCSD existing standards.

• Certain support departments will be restructured to match the organizational chart currently in use by LCSD, such as transportation, food service and custodial.

• Existing certified and noncertified staff will not be retained upon consolidation, but will be asked to reapply for positions within the approved organizational chart.

• The existing LCSD Strategic Plan, Mission Statement and student handbook principles will apply immediately but will have the ability for revision when the new board is seated.

• Lamar County School District will try to operate a separate attendance zone in Lumberton as long as the Board of Trustees and administration believe that structure can be maintained regarding appropriate enrollment and diversity considerations.

S.B. 2500 also established an 11-member Commission on the Administrative Consolidation of the Lumberton Public School District to oversee the abolition and reorganization of the Lumberton schools. If the proposal to move the Lumberton schools under the direction of Lamar County School Board is enacted, the commission apparently would not be needed.