By Daniel Brunty
The Choctaw Plaindealer
As Choctaw County High School nears its first inaugural year, we take a look at how the school came to be, as well as reflect on the big moments of its inception
Almost one year ago, a federal court order declared that the Choctaw County School District will provide one county wide high school beginning with the 2013-2014 school year.The Choctaw County School District approved to be restructured to save money and create a better educational environment for students in the county on June 4, 2012.
Later that month, the school district received notification from the Department of Justice that they would require more information prior to making a decision concerning the restructuring of the schools. This resulted in the board announcing at the time they would not restructure the school district.
After a review of the proposal, Choctaw County School Superintendent Glen Beard released statement which provided a new proposal to present to the courts. In March 2013, it was determined that a federal judge would decide if, when and how the Choctaw County School District would consolidate its schools.
On April 10, 2013, the Northern District of Mississippi Western Division Court issued an order for the 2013-2014 school year that Grades 9 through 12 of Ackerman High School and Weir Attendance Center would be consolidated at the site of Ackerman High School, while Grades 7 through 8 of Ackerman High School, Weir Attendance Center, and French Camp Elementary would be consolidated at the site of Ackerman High School, and named Choctaw County High School and Choctaw County Middle School. The District’s elementary school structure for grades pre-K through 6 would remain unchanged. These grades will remain at Ackerman Elementary School, French Camp Elementary School and Weir Elementary School.
“When we received the court decision, it was mixed emotions because change is always hard,” Beard said. “However, it was necessary to be able to continue to operate the district without a state takeover due to finances.”
Once the decision was reached, it was very little time before the 2013-2014 school year would begin. Choctaw County School Superintendent Glen Beard was very instrumental in the consolidation as well as the transition. “Time was a big challenge,” Beard said. “Once the court ruled there was very little time to get faculty and staff in the right places, transportation routes figured out, school colors, mascots and things of that nature.”
This historic change for the county was met with split opinions, from people reminiscent of their former schools, while others agreed on the forward progress made by the school district. Beard heard a lot of these opinions during the transition. “Yes there was feedback and it was mixed, however with anything the negative is always louder than the positive,” Beard said. “One thing we did was establish a blue ribbon committee of community leaders and students to provide feedback and recommendations to provide as smooth a transition as possible.”
With the new changes also came a new set challenges, for all schools involved. There were many concerns from residents in the county, ranging from how this change would affect their child academically to how former rival schools would co-exist in the same school. “Anytime there is change there is an adjustment,” Beard said. “It was an adjustment for everyone, however, I believe the seniors have done an outstanding job of coming together and from day one they let everyone know that they weren’t from Weir or Ackerman but they were from Choctaw County.”
The initial transition of CCHS began during the summer of 2013, such as the school approving their new mascot to a total overhaul of the school’s sports scene. Initially after the consolidation, the school district and coaches were concerned that the school would have to play as an independent. However, on June 20, 2013, the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA) announced The Choctaw County Chargers would begin their first year of sports in Region 5-3A.
“We weren’t exactly pleased with having to participate in an athletic district in which we have to travel as far as Raleigh, but we were thankful due to time constraints that the MHSAA allowed us the opportunity to be able to be part of a district and compete,” Beard said.
The Chargers have held their own during their inaugural season, making a playoff berth in football with an 8-4 overall record and a 3-2 district record. The boys’ and girls’ basketball teams both had solid seasons, and with young talent on both, look to improve next season. With baseball season in full swing, residents of Choctaw look for the Chargers baseball team for big things this season.
As far as administration, the school district’s summer was busy maintaining and updating facilities, approving school budgets, as well as changes in personnel. These changes, however, went over smoothly as well.
On August 8, 2013, the new era of Choctaw County High School began in Choctaw County. With the school year ending in less than two months, Beard reflects this period. “It has been a great first year,” Beard said. The students have really responded well. The communities have rallied behind the students and have bought into the Chargers!”
Even after such a smooth transition, the school district and schools still have issues, such as transportation and as always, finances. “We still have some things to improve on as we grow however that is the key to a great school system,” Beard said. “We have become a system that is constantly working to improve in every aspect and we want to provide the best educational experiences for our students.”
With the school district’s goal to educate the students of Choctaw County to the best of its ability, it has been critical that faculty and staff have a hand in this. Beard is proud of what the faculty and staffs of the school has accomplished in this inaugural year. “The school year has been great for the faculty,” Beard said. “They have embraced the students and have been a huge part of the transition. They have done wonderful things to get students involved in activities and have helped to bring unity.”
Beard, as well as the faculty and staff, are looking forward to moving the new school in the right direction. They know that making the school its best is not only the job of the teachers, but also the job of the community. “I want to thank the parents, faculty, staff and residents of Choctaw County for getting behind the Chargers this year and for helping to make this first year as good as it has been,” Beard said. “It takes a village to raise a child and in our case it takes a county coming together as one to make our school system the best it can be. I am so proud to be part of Charger Nation!”