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Response to School of Applied Technology Negotiations

The Tech

Photo by Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle

Oxford, Mississippi (February 13, 2020) — By now, you have heard or read about the negotiations between the Oxford School District and the Lafayette County School District regarding the Oxford-Lafayette School of Applied Technology (The TECH). Our district has a clear vision in these negotiations: to serve OSD students with career-technical courses with adequate instruction time and to offer courses that prepare them for the 21st-century workforce.

We have no intention of eliminating the courses that our students are currently taking: automotive services, carpentry, welding, teacher academy, health sciences, and computer programming. Nor is it our intent to remove access for any Lafayette County student from any program at the TECH. We strongly desire that students from both districts be able to participate in any program at the TECH without regard to which district actually runs the program.

At the School of Applied Technology board meeting in June 2019, the OSD stated their plans to enhance career-technical education offered to Oxford School District students and develop a plan to utilize The TECH in an equitable manner with LCSD.

So, what is the problem?

Under the existing consortium agreement, the OSD would not be reimbursed from the state for additional career-technical courses to be offered in the 2020-2021 school year- this includes reimbursement for an administrator, counselor, and special populations instructor. Under the direction of Dr. Steve Hurdle, Director of Career Technical Education, Oxford High School is making plans to add Culinary Arts, Engineering, Health Science/Sports Medicine, Law and Public Safety, Information Technology, Horticulture, Early Childhood Development, and HVAC. This is an exciting time to be a student at OHS and we want to maximize the resources made available to us by the state.

What is our district proposing?

Both school districts jointly own the buildings, classroom equipment, and the land on which The TECH resides. The roughly 34,000 square feet were divided in the agreement proposed by Lafayette County School District on January 6, 2020. Based on their proposal, the Lafayette County School District would retain "full and exclusive use of three shop areas and one classroom space" currently utilized for automotive, construction/carpentry, welding, and health science classes. Lafayette would retain 17,500 square feet and Oxford would retain only 8,500 square feet.

Our district responded with a more equitable division of the property with Lafayette having 17,000 square feet and Oxford having 16,800 square feet. At their next board meeting, Lafayette tabled the discussion, further delaying the negotiations. After seven months of negotiating, Oxford continues to request an agreement that allows equal access to the property to meet the goals of each program. Click here to see the agreement that we proposed on Friday, February 7, 2020. Time is running out, as OHS students will begin selecting courses for the 2020-2021 school year by the end of February.

As your Superintendent, I am fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Oxford and cannot justify this loss of space, equipment and land value. I am also responsible for making decisions that are in the best interest of our students’ futures in the 21st-century workforce. You have my word, I will continue to work hard to make sure our students and the future of our district benefit from these negotiations.

Sincerely,

Brian Harvey
Superintendent, Oxford School District