Biloxi schools closings controversy likely headed to court - - The News for South Mississippi

Biloxi schools closings controversy likely headed to court


By Danielle Thomas – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Parents at three South Mississippi schools set to close next month say they're ready for a fight. This week the Biloxi School Board voted to close Beauvoir Elementary, Nichols Elementary and Michel Sixth Grade schools to save money. On Saturday, community members gathered to strategize on how to keep the closings from happening.

Many parents say the first word they heard that Beauvoir, Nichols. and Michel might be closing was on the news last Sunday night. By Tuesday, that possibility became a reality.

"Closed door, secret, we had nothing to do with it," said parent Kimberly Johnson. "There's no time. They [Biloxi School Board members] made their minds up. That's it. We have to deal with it. We're not just going to deal with it. We're going to deal with it our way."

Parents, grandparents and other concerned citizens spent time figuring out their next move in trying to keep the schools open. They say they are ready to battle the Biloxi school district, and they intend to win no matter how long it takes.

Jessica Davis has children who attend Beauvoir.

Davis said, "To stay the course, to get where we want to be to keep our schools open, we're going to have to be dedicated. We're going to have to meet up, strategize and get a plan of attack together so we can save our schools."

"If you don't come stand up for what you believe, there won't be anything," said Myra Ramsey, the parent of a Nichols' student. "You stand for nothing if you don't stand up and fight for what you believe in. So you want to instill that in your kids. Make them see 'Well, mama is fighting for me.' So they'll know to fight for themselves."

About three dozen people showed up for the meeting which some parents say is too few.

"I'm extremely disappointed because I know for a fact that these flyers were handed out yesterday," said Davis. "Where is everybody? I know it's early on a Saturday, but it's not that early. I'm up."

Johnson said, "Anything that we can do to try to keep our schools open, I'm there. We want it that bad. Actually, we need it bad. It's for the kids. It's for the teachers. It's for the community."

WLOX was not allowed to be in the room for all of the discussions on how to fight the school closings. However, participants did say they are already in talks with attorneys, and the controversy is likely to turn into a court battle.

Biloxi NAACP President James Crowell said, "We're going to work on this injunction to make sure that it's properly written. So when we file it, the judge will see that we have sufficient evidence to call for this injunction to delay the closure of these schools or to prevent it totally." 

Some of the parents at the meeting say they want to know exactly how the Biloxi district has been spending its money. They say they will ask the Mississippi State Auditor for an independent accountant.

Parents say Biloxi has financial resources like casino revenue and military funding that other area school districts don't. Since all the districts are undergoing cuts, parents say it doesn't make sense that only Biloxi is taking such drastic steps as closing three schools.

Parents say they believe the school district unwisely pumped $10 million dollars into a new ninth grade wing for Biloxi High School.

"They mismanaged $10 million dollars building an extension to Biloxi High that they don't need," said Gwen Beck, a Biloxi resident. "They don't have that many students. If we've lost as many students as they say we have, then why in the world do we need to build a $10 million annex for ninth graders? That makes no sense. That would take care of Nichols for 5 years to come. "

WLOX was unable to reach the Biloxi Schools Superintendent for comment on allegations the district has mismanaged funds.

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