GREENWOOD — The Greenwood school district will get six more days to respond to a report by the Mississippi Department of Education that claims widespread violations of state standards occurred in the district.
Mississippi’s Commission on School Accreditation voted yesterday to give Greenwood until Monday to reply to a 46-page state accreditation audit.
The commission is to meet again July 31 to consider whether it will recommend that a state of emergency be declared in the district. Such a recommendation would clear the way for the state Board of Education to ask Gov. Phil Bryant to declare an emergency, leading to a state takeover of the 2,900-student district. The state would remove Superintendent Montrelle Greene and the school board and appoint a conservator to run the district.
Such takeovers are one way Mississippi tries to deal with wayward school systems. The state currently controls five districts — Aberdeen, Claiborne County, Leflore County, Oktibbeha County and Scott County, and four others were returned to local control on July 1.
The audit said Greenwood is reporting inaccurate information on employee pay and job descriptions. It accuses school board members of making decisions in illegal closed meetings, and interfering in daily school operations, student discipline decisions and athletic programs, including threatening to fire coaches that don’t win state championships. The document also questions $29,000 in federal money spent on parental involvement. It says Superintendent Montrelle Greene and school board members use “bullying and harassment tactics such as threatening individuals with job loss are used to intimidate and control employees.”
Greenwood also sued the state Monday, though Hinds County Chancery Judge Patricia Wise hadn’t ruled by yesterday on the lawsuit’s request to impose a 10-day delay. The suit says that it’s unfair for the district, which got the report on July 16, to be expected to respond in only three business days.
Lawyers continued that argument before the accrediting commission yesterday, with Carlos Palmer saying Greenwood’s response was “crippled” by lack of time and unanswered requests for supporting documents from the state.
Lawyer Jim Keith told the commission the audit was inaccurate and Greenwood wants to provide “objective information, not rumor and innuendo.”
Commission Chairman Lee Childress, the Corinth school superintendent, said members decided to wait after discussing the matter in a closed-door session lasting more than 30 minutes.
“The commission wants to make sure that schools have an opportunity to respond to any type of reports they receive,” Childress said, acknowledging this could set a precedent for future takeovers.
Takeover opponents say the district has been attacked by enemies of Greenwood Mayor Carolyn McAdams, who appoints the school board that chose Greene.
“I fell like if they do not give us the opportunity to tell the other side of the story, this is just a railroad situation that’s very contrived and very political,” McAdams said.
Opponents of Adams, including state Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, pushed for a protege of the previous superintendent to be hired instead of Greene.
“I think this board needs to go and this superintendent needs to go,” Jordan said.