Biloxi School Board says no to grant

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

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Some say they walked in already knowing what would happen with the vote.

"When yall say no tonight, we gonna say yes," says Eula Crowell, Save Our School Coalition.

But, it didn't stop people, in particular those with the Save our School coalition from urging the board to accept the 1.5 million dollar grant to re-open Nichols. The W.K. Kellogg foundation, a nationally-known, charitable organization out of Michigan, made the grant offer.

"It is the thread that binds the black community together. It's the only school in the city of Biloxi with a long rich black history," says Clemon Jimmerson, Save Our School Coalition.

When decision time came, board member David Blaine suggested applying for another grant with Kellogg.  The money would go to Gorenflo to fund intervention and tutorial programs to benefit the East Biloxi community.

But, that's not the compromise this group wanted to hear.  They stood up and started singing "We Shall Overcome," inserting the words Nichols will reopen at one point.  They also prayed then walked out.

The board said it decided not to accept the grant because it had issues with a requirement calling for a governing body to act in the best interest of Nichols to keep it open.  The board argued its schools already has a governing body, the Biloxi School Board.

"We just didn't feel that that was legal or something we wanted to enter into as far as a decision-making group," says Kenny Holloway, Biloxi School Board president.

But, members of the Save Our School Coalition say that's not the case.

"No one said that they were relieving the school board of it's ability to govern. It said basically that (the board) would work with the community and develop some ideas and concepts that would extend the life of Nichols. They want to read a lot more into it and that's unfortunate," says Bill Stallworth, Save Our Schools Coalition.

An attorney helping the group, Kim Duffy of the Mississippi Center for Justice, says there is a pending complaint with the Department of Education. Duffy calls the board's actions flip-flopping.

"The Biloxi school district said money was the issue, now apparently money's not the issue, so we're going to amend the complaint."

The governing body, according to Superintendent Paul Tisdale was an issue both he and the board had with the grant.  But, Tisdale says there's always been a bigger problem at the heart of the issue.

"To be clear there's no flip flop here.  There's a money issue. I mentioned the governance issue because we already have a board that governs for the school.  They want to keep Nichols open at any cost."

Superintendent Tisdale says the district would have to put up about half a million dollars a year along with the grant to keep Nichols open.  Duffy, the attorney helping the Save Our School Coalition, says the next step is to amend the pending complaint with the events that have taken place over the last few months.

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