The Mississippi State Board of Education (SBE) has appointed five Tunica County residents to serve as advisory board members for the Tunica County School District (TCSD) as the district transitions back to local community control.
The appointed members will serve in an advisory role to SBE-appointed TCSD interim superintendent Dr. Margie Pulley during calendar year 2023. They will serve as voting school board members beginning on Jan. 1, 2024, when the district is expected to return to local control. Board members may continue to serve after 2024 provided they are elected during their applicable November elections.
The TCSD advisory board includes members from each of Tunica’s five districts:
- District 1 – Evelyn W. Hubbard, a native of Tunica and longtime pastor of the Commerce Boulevard Christian Church.
- District 2 – Clifton Johnson, currently a New York Life Insurance agent who previously served as a senior auditor for the State of Mississippi Department of Audit and as chief financial officer and county administrator for Tunica County.
- District 3 – Carol Dunaway Gill, a lifelong resident of Tunica and retiree after 41 years in private business with experience in personnel recruitment, evaluation and professional development.
- District 4 – Marcus Autry, a 21-year veteran teacher, coach, principal and central office administrator who currently works in the South Panola School District.
- District 5 – Dr. Valarie Davis, a retiree with 15 years of experience as a teacher, principal and central office administrator.
The SBE has governed the TCSD since 2015, when it determined an extreme emergency existed in the district and asked the governor to declare a state of emergency. Specifically, the district was in violation of 25 of the 31 accreditation standards the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) reviewed. Accreditation audits found serious deficiencies in special education, federal programs, instructional programs, career technical education and district governance.
Dr. Pulley has been leading the district since 2015, during which she implemented high-quality instruction, sound financial management and brought all accreditation standards into compliance. Under her leadership, the district’s accountability grade improved to a C in 2015-16 after a four-year track record of D and F grades. The district further improved its grade to a B in 2021-22.
“The new Tunica County School District advisory board will assist Dr. Pulley throughout 2023 as the district takes steps to move back to local governance,” said Dr. Kim Benton, state superintendent of education, interim. “An effective advisory board is critical to maintaining the success of the Tunica County School District and ensuring students continue to receive the high-quality education they deserve.”
Mississippi’s state of emergency, District of Transformation and Achievement School District laws enable the SBE and the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) to intervene in school districts with a pattern of persistently poor student performance, extreme financial mismanagement or with serious violations of accreditation standards or state or federal law that jeopardize the safety or educational interests of students. Along with TCSD, there are currently four other school districts under state control: Noxubee County School District, Holmes County Consolidated School District, Humphreys County School District and Yazoo City School District. Humphreys and Yazoo City are part of the state’s Achievement School District.
State law gives the SBE authority to return a state-run district to local control when the district has corrected all its deficiencies and has improved its academic performance.