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Keith Helps Greenwood Public Schools Avoid State Takeover in Mississippi

8/4/2014

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Adams and Reese Partner Jim Keith represented Greenwood Public Schools and argued in front of The Mississippi Commission on School Accreditation and against the Mississippi Department of Education to help the district avoid state takeover. The MCSA voted unanimously against MDE's findings of an extreme emergency situation meriting the immediate loss of the district's accreditation.

The story was covered by The Clarion-Ledger in the article, “Greenwood schools avoid state takeover.”

The MCSA gave the district until Oct. 15 to come into compliance with all accreditation standards and submit to a full state audit after that time. The findings of that audit will be presented to the commission at a later date. The meeting lasted more than two hours and attracted a large crowd of both supporters and opponents of the district's current administration led by Superintendent Montrell Greene.

MDE had based its findings on the results of an unannounced visit to the district between April 29 and May 2 during which its auditors made observations, reviewed records, interviewed staff and conducted anonymous, online surveys. Among the allegations in the 46-page report, which MDE issued July 16, are that the district has misspent more than $95,000, violated three dozen accreditation standards and created an atmosphere of “dissension, fear, low staff morale and distrust of the superintendent and the school board.”

The district's 61-page response, filed Monday, contained sharp criticism for how MDE conducted the audit and chided the agency for basing its findings on anonymous hearsay, failing to do thorough research and neglecting to interview district officials. Of one allegation – that the school board president conducts job applicant background checks while other board members knowingly look the other way – the district expresses shock. “Such accusations by the audit team are reckless, irresponsible and defamatory,” the response states, noting a total lack of evidence to support the claim.

Keith argued that many of the allegations appear to have come from disgruntled employees trying to sabotage the Greene administration because their preferred superintendent wasn't chosen. Greene was hired by the school board in April 2013 and replaced interim superintendent Jennifer Wilson amid protests from Wilson's supporters.

At Adams and Reese, Keith practices in the areas of employment, education and administrative law.  A focused aspect of his practice involves the representation of educational entities, including school districts, community colleges and universities.