Board approves changes to admission criteria

From left to right, SOCSD Board of Trustees Vice President John S. Brown, President Lee Brand and Secretary Debra Prince. Prince was the sole nay vote on a change to the district's admittance requirement policy. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

At its meeting Tuesday night, the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees approved amendments to one of its policies.

The policy in question, Policy JBC, was amended to tighten the district’s proof of residency policy for new students to be admitted to the district. The approval was made by a vote of 4-1, with the nay vote coming from Secretary Debra Prince. The policy was changed to require parents of prospective students to present aminimum of one document from two groups of five.The first document group includes mortgage statements, property deeds, filed homestead exemption application, apartment or home leases and filed property or warranty deeds. The second group includes utility bills, electric bills, water bills, cable bills and certified copies of filed petition for guardianship or final guardianship decrees. The documents in question may not be more than 30 days old. Other forms may be accepted only in extenuating circumstances, as deemed by building level administrators. Driver’s licenses, automobile registration and voter precinct identification are not acceptable proofs of residency.

Prince said providing correct documents could be a challenge for some of the district’s most vulnerable families, giving an example.

“If I look at the acceptable things in group one and group two, there is not a single thing in there where I can satisfy residency,” Prince said. “I live with an elderly parent, so I couldn’t satisfy residency. I imagine there are a lot of people that are living with other people that won’t have bills in their name, won’t have a lease, won’t have any of that other stuff.”

Assistant Superintendent Christy Maulding emphasized that there was a clause for extenuating circumstances, and Superintendent Eddie Peasant said a family could include an affidavit with proof of residency other than their own, stating that the student lives with other relatives in Starkville or Oktibbeha County.

“There’s probably going to be a lot of people falling into that category, too, though,” Prince said. “There are a lot of people who don’t have an apartment in their name, or house, or anything If you don’t have a house in your name, you’re not going to have a utility bill in your name.”

Maulding said the district had not seen many issues with families falsifying registration, but emphasized that it was a widespread issue.

“I don’t know in the past if we have, but we talked about multiple districts, and I think it’s a problem, and I believe that when we’re spending taxpayer dollars on our students, then it’s important to keep kids out that don’t live in the district,” Maulding said.

Peasant said the district’s process for children living elsewhere to be admitted was commonly used.

“Obviously, we have those situations all of the time, and we haven’t had any of those situations where someone was denied because of something like what you’re describing,” Peasant said.

The board also unanimously approved the payment of a balance due to Earthmark, LLC for the construction of a fence around the playground at Sudduth Elementary in the amount of $3,795. The funds will pay the remainder of the cost of the fence, after the Sudduth Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) pays the $15,000 it raised to cover the initial quote. The payment will be made with funds moved to the districts maintenance budget from a fund set aside for unexpected expenses.The board also approved President’s Day, Feb. 18 as a makeup day for Jan. 29, when the district canceled school in anticipation of inclement weather. In addition,the board granted Maintenance Director John Maulding approval to advertise for bids for janitorial supplies, repairs to the Starkville High School Band Hall roof and a new landscaping contract to replace the district’s current contract. The current contract ends on April 30. Another bid was approved to allow Director of Technology David Hill to submit a request for proposal and advertise for bids for Ethernet switches and wireless access points. The bid will be set up as a reverse auction governed by Southern Procurement.