Vote tabled on $1.5 million grant for Nichols Elementary

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - By Krystal Allan – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Biloxi School Board decided Tuesday night to table a vote on a $1.5 million grant that would help reopen Nichols Elementary School.

It all boiled down to one reason. There has yet to be a meeting between the school board, the Save our Schools Coalition and the Kellogg Foundation, the organization offering the grant.

While everyone agreed to a meeting with the Kellogg Foundation, not everyone is sold on the offer as it stands.

"I have no problem tabling the issue," said school board member David Blaine. "I have a problem with the stipulations, and I have a problem with the monetary amount."

One condition of the grant includes creating a decision-making body for Nichols. The group would consist of school board members and people from the community.

Superintendent Paul Tisdale has publicly challenged this notion saying there's already a decision-making body for the schools, the school board; and no other school has such a group in place. The Save Our Schools Coalition has countered saying it's a way for the community to dialogue and work with the school board in the best interest of Nichols.

As it pertains to money, S.O.S says there hasn't been a clear understanding of how much it will take to reopen Nichols.

"We need to come up with what the figure really is before we talk to Kellogg, so when they do make their offer, we'll know what the real figure is," said James Crowell, Co-Chair of the Save Our Schools Coalition.

Supervisor Tisdale addressed that issue during the meeting saying the initial numbers included some unknowns.  He said they were never put out as exact figures.

"The number that we're looking at now seems to be more accurate... $1.2 million or so," said Tisdale.

Though the board agreed to table the vote, Board President Kenny Holloway said if a vote had been taken, he would have voted no. Among other reasons, he claims in addition to the grant, it would take $800,000 per year for three years to maintain the school.

There's no word on when the meeting will take place.  However, the Vice President of the Kellogg Foundation, Greg Taylor, said he would be willing to come back for a special meeting.

Board members from the Kellogg Foundation were in town on Monday.  S.O.S said the group was unable to meet with the school board during its visit on Monday because the trip was tightly-scheduled and already planned out.  S.O.S said it would need more than 15 minutes to sit down and properly address the issue.

The group spent its time on the coast following up with organizations who receive funding, monitoring progress and talking with community partners as part of its annual board meeting, The group said the coast was one leg of a three day trip in multiple cities across the state.

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