Meridian Star

Local News

December 31, 2007

Story of the Year: Community overwhelmingly backs $19.5 million school bond


And while the outcome was favorable, the bond issue was not without controversy.

A group known as Concerned Citizens of Meridian/Lauderdale County filed a lawsuit to stop the school district from moving forward with its 19.5 million bond issue. Unfairness in the district and accountability were cited as major concerns.

" ... If you take a moment to look, you will see there are 82 percent African Americans in the school district, yet it is not reflected in employment," said Sam Thompson, a Concerned Citizens representative.

"Meridian Public School officials say they look but they can’t find them and there are people in my church who graduated and filled out applications and nothing has happened."

Regarding accountability, Randle Jennings, another representative of the group, said, "I believe the student’s needs are not being met. A lot of our children come from poverty. I’m looking at the economic impact that it is having on the district.

"There is $65 million in the budget and $45 million is spent on salaries, but we need to look at who is receiving the salaries," Jennings said. "Most of the teachers who receive the salaries live in the county, but the children come from the city. It doesn’t register."

Also, during a town hall meeting a week before the election, there were a lot of questions and comments about why it was necessary to build a ninth-grade school on the Meridian High School campus, and why a new high school was not in the plans.

Nonetheless, the bond issue had its staunch supporters.

Moments after the announcement of the special election, people began rallying support. Brightly colored signs with “School Bond, Yes. It’s Right/School Bond, Yes. It’s Time” were visible in neighborhoods throughout the community, as well as in front of businesses. And school officials, as well as parents, community leaders and other interested individuals worked tirelessly — going door-to-door, distributing pamphlets and meeting with civic clubs and other groups — to get the word out to assure the bond’s required 60 percent passage.

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