Governor Phil Bryant and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba seemed to have avoided what seemed to be an unavoidable political collision over the fate of the Jackson Public Schools. While the State of Mississippi certainly put itself in a technical position to take JPS over, it seems like cooler heads may have prevailed and that a collaborative solution has been found.
Truth told, the MS Department of Education with the many administrative fires they have raging internally was not the most likely candidate to come in and uniformly produce good governance of the district. Likewise the Board of JPS has proven itself wholly incapable of managing the district and making hard and unpopular decisions regarding the allocation of resources and creating accountability. JPS board resignations were part of the deal. Both Bryant and Lumumba needed the leverage of a state takeover to effect necessary change, which will still be challenging. But at the very least, this one political item it seems, for now, has evaded the traditional racial fault lines that many of these sort of issues fall prey to.
Below is the press Release from Governor Bryant
Gov. Bryant Forms Coalition to Develop Collaborative Plan to Improve Jackson Public Schools
Gov. Phil Bryant has formed a coalition that will develop a collaborative, comprehensive plan to improve Jackson Public Schools.
It centers on community involvement, collaborative governance and strategic investments. It does not initiate a state takeover of JPS, though the Mississippi Department of Education’s request remains active.
Instead, it brings together JPS stakeholders and forms partnerships with national and local experts, including the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Education Commission of the States and Mississippi Economic Council.
“The easy thing for me to do would have been approve the state takeover,” Gov. Bryant said. “This is a better way forward for the 27,000 students in JPS. The opportunity to form this coalition was too good to pass up. I am grateful for the membership’s commitment to bring transformative change to Jackson Public Schools.”
As part of the first phase, every current member of the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees has resigned. Also included is the formation of a Project Commission, comprised of JPS stakeholders. From there, commissioners and local, state and national partners will engage the community in a series of listening sessions.
“The Governor and I agree that the challenges faced by the Jackson Public School District provide an opportunity to create a new transformative vision for JPS,” said Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba. “Our children deserve an excellent school district. I am pleased to work together with Governor Bryant and the Kellogg Foundation to create this ‘Third Option’ for JPS. Many would say that the Governor and my political views represent oppositional poles; however, this collaboration is an excellent demonstration of what I have called ‘Operational Unity.’”
Mayor Lumumba continued: “We have come together for the benefit of our children and our community to craft a plan that is not about personality, but about solving real problems to benefit all parties.”
With input from ECS, which will share best practices developed from successes in other states, a request for proposals to perform an outside evaluation of the JPS educational ecosystem will be issued. The Kellogg Foundation has agreed to support the commission’s discovery efforts, including the outside evaluation and listening sessions.
“Children are our greatest asset and we believe in their hopes, dreams and aspirations,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “Their future makes this work so important and when we stand together in partnership with the governor, mayor, JPS and the community, all in alignment, great things will happen.”
The outside evaluation will be informed by school data and the listening sessions. Its findings will drive the development of a plan that addresses key education gaps, alignment of resources, professional development, personnel recommendations, safety considerations and other factors.
The Project Commission will consider the findings and will work with outside organizations to identify existing resources within JPS to apply toward the plan’s implementation. Periodic evaluations will then be conducted to ensure JPS stays on the path to success.