‘No malice’ found in noose incident

By PAT BROWN,

Three new faces will be present at the table for the first Simpson County School Board meeting of 2019. 

The central office staff held a reception for school board members who will not be returning, Dale Shotts, Linda Curlee and Sammy Welch. 

The new board members replacing them will be Danny Cowart, Patrice Boykin and Stan Bulger, who will start their terms in January. 

At the December 13 regular meeting of the board, Leon Wedgeworth, investigator with the Simpson County Sheriff’s Department, reported that he had completed a complete criminal investigation of the so-called “noose”  incident at Mendenhall Middle School.  He said that after doing interviews, collecting statements and viewing photographs, he had concluded that no wrong doing or malice was associated with the noose found hanging in the school building, which was claimed by some to be the basis of a “hate crime.”   

According to Superintendent Greg Paes, counseling was offered to students who felt affected by the incident, but he did not know how many students requested the counseling. 

The concerned parent who spoke at a previous meeting thanked the school board for notice of another incident that sparked an all-call for parents at the school.  She did say, however, that her child had not received counseling. 

Dr. Robert  Sanders, assistant superintendent for human resources and secondary curriculum, reported that the graduation rate for the district had improved significantly from an 81 percent level to 85.76 percent on the most recent four-year grouping of students.  He said this is a strong indicator of significant improvement in future school ratings.  This is above the national rating of 84 percent and a state level of 83 percent. 

The board accepted bids on several parcels of 16th Section timber property with the highest being $375,800 for a final cutting on 129 acres plot. 

The board also approved an extension on a property lease for a cell tower to American Tower in the initial amount of $40,000 with a $500 a month lease payment and an increase every five years. 

The district presented a certificate of recognition to Christian Allen of Mendenhall High School for his successful season as quarterback for the Tigers and for being selected Mr. Football there.

The board approved awarding scholarships for junior and senior grade level students for dual enrollment classes for which they earn college credits while meeting high school requirements and for which they have to pay tuition fees to the college granting the credit.  Priority will be given to  free or reduced meal students. 

Funds will be made available through Title IV with a deadline of Friday, Dec. 21, for application  for classes starting in January.  Students will get credit for high school as well as college courses but must maintain a C or above. Otherwise they will have to fund the courses themselves.  Dual enrollment allows  students to get up to 16 hours of college credit upon graduation from high school.