Taylor sworn in, Peasant talks career academies at school board

Jamila Taylor was sworn in as a member of the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees at the board's meeting Monday night. Taylor ran unopposed for the seat, and will serve a five-year term. From left to right: mother-in-law Helen Taylor, husband Cheikh Taylor, Jamila Taylor, daughter Leilah Taylor, son Ahmir Taylor and Notary Public Emily Ward. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

After running unopposed for the seat in this year’s general election, Jamila Taylor was sworn in as a member of the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees Monday night.

Taylor took the oath of office from Notary Public Emily Ward surrounded by family, in front of an American flag. This was her second attempt as a school board seat, previously losing to current school board Vice President John S. Brown in 2016. A Texas native, Taylor has been involved in public schools in Starkville for 15 years, serving in various Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) positions and other volunteer capacities. Most recently, she served on the district’s Strategic Planning Committee.

She is an alumna of Howard University and the University of Phoenix. She is married to State Rep. Cheikh Taylor, D-Starkville, and has two children, Leilah Taylor and Ahmir Taylor. She replaces Keith Coble, who did not run for reelection after 11 years on the board.

“I’ve been part of the Starkville community for over 15 years,” Taylor said. “I’ve been engaged in the school district from the parent level, but just to now move into a part of the board as a school board member and looking a decisions and policies that will affect the staff and the administrators is truly a privilege.”

Taylor also said she hoped to see the district progress with the strategic plan.

Superintendent Eddie Peasant also discussed the district’s plan for academic houses at Starkville High School starting this fall. The academic houses will give students the opportunity to take courses related to careers they are interested in, in some cases even earning certifications while enrolled at SHS. Peasant announced three houses: Technology Engineering Construction (TEC), Health and Human Service (H2S) and Communication, Arts and Business (CAB).

In addition to classes related to students’ chosen fields. Core classes will also be tailored to their individual houses and career paths. This year, all freshmen are taking a freshman focus course to prepare them to select a house and explore different career paths. Despite the changes, students would still take classes required by the Mississippi Department of Education for graduation, and earn the same diploma as before.

Peasant said the program was similar to the career academies used by the Gulfport School District.

“We are wanting to create a high school where all of our students feel supported and prepared for a successful future.” Peasant said. “This is our way of getting them an education and making school more relevant to them based on their interests and based on their strengths.”

Peasant emphasized that students would have the option to switch between houses, should they realize a different career choice would be better for them. Peasant said students would likely be allowed to switch pathways between semesters or school years.

“Through this process, it’s our hope that, students, based on their interests, will get to what they’re truly interested in and what they’re good at, but it’s just as important for them to get in and figure out ‘this is not what I want to do,”’ Peasant said. “That’s beneficial to parents especially, because they’re not waiting until they go to college to do that and waste two years of college tuition.”

In addition, the board also set Peasant’s annual board evaluation for 5 p.m. on Jan. 31. The board also approved a $50,000 donation to the Emerson/Head Start Early Learning Collaborative from Universal Health Services of Delaware.