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State relinquishing control of Tunica County School District

Photo courtesy of TCSD

Tunica County will soon regain control of its public school district following nine years of state control.

The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) on Thursday voted in favor of ending the state of emergency in the Tunica County School District and returning the district to local community control.

The SBE has governed the TCSD since 2015 when it determined that the district was in a state of extreme disarray and asked former Governor Phil Bryant to intervene.

Specifically, the district was reported to be in violation of 25 of the 31 accreditation standards the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) reviewed. Accreditation audits found serious deficiencies in special education, federal programs, instructional programs, career technical education, and district governance.

In response, the SBE appointed interim superintendent Dr. Margie Pulley to bring the district up to par. Under Pulley’s leadership, the district’s accountability grade improved to a C in 2015-16 after a four-year run of D and F grades. The district further improved its grade to a B in 2021-22 and 2022-23, records show.

“The Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi State Board of Education are deeply grateful to Dr. Pulley for her steady leadership of the Tunica County School District over the past nine years,” Dr. Raymond Morgigno, interim state superintendent of education, said. “Dr. Pulley always puts students first, makes decisions based on data, and is a strong leader. It is no surprise that under her leadership, the students in Tunica County have made such impressive gains in their academic achievement.”

The return to local control transfers responsibility for leading the district to the new TCSD board. The new school board includes five former advisory board members who the SBE appointed in November 2022 to help prepare the district to transition back to local control. The advisory board members will begin serving as voting school board members on July 1.

During the spring, the advisory board conducted a search for a new superintendent. The board will officially appoint its preferred candidate on July 1, as well.

State law enables the SBE and MDE to intervene in school districts with a pattern of persistently poor student performance, extreme financial mismanagement, and serious violations of accreditation standards in state or federal law that jeopardize the safety or educational interests of students.

There are currently four other school districts under state control in Mississippi:

  • Noxubee County School District
  • Holmes County Consolidated School District
  • Humphreys County School District
  • Yazoo City School District

The SBE has the authority to return a state-run district to local control when the district has corrected all its deficiencies and has improved its academic performance.

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