As the Starkville Oktibbeha School District and Starkville High School celebrate 50 years of full integration, we highlight the work of our greater school community.
In the spring of 1970, with full integration on the horizon, the greater Starkville community invested its financial resources in its public school buildings.
Incoming school Superintendent Paul Armstrong sat down with Starkville Daily News for a Question & Answer session. The subject was a $250,000 school bond issue scheduled for a vote on May 19. It was part of a collection of articles published in the newspaper offering details and explanations about the proposed community investment.
When a District Court in Aberdeen ruled earlier that year that Starkville would form a unified district for the 1970-71 school year, it mandated that no schools should be closed. This requirement was unlike desegregation plans for many Mississippi districts, and soon prompted an inventory and evaluation of city school campuses.
In addition to renovations at every school, over half of the proposed bond funds — $142,000 — was slated for work on the Henderson complex and grounds. The complex would house Starkville's 8th-9th grade students after integration in September and consisted of the former all-black Henderson High School and Henderson Elementary Annex.
What difference would equitable facilities make? Superintendent Armstrong made the case that "students deserve to have facilities that are conducive to learning rather than those that distract from learning."
Many in the community agreed. Several community and civic organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce publicized their endorsement of the bond issue in the newspaper, and Starkville Daily published a petition with over 300 signatures from local citizens supporting the funding. On its editorial page, the paper proclaimed, "We believe a vast majority of our people realize this work must be done to provide adequate facilities and create a desirable atmosphere for orderly organizing a unitary school system next fall. Where other communities may have failed, Starkville will succeed in providing quality education for all of its students."
On May 19, 1970, the proposed bond issue passed the 60% voter threshold with 75 votes to spare. The community’s willingness to invest in a unified public school district paved the way for students to begin the first fully integrated school year in newly renovated and upgraded facilities.
Did our community’s gesture of support for its public schools squelch the impacts of a tumultuous time of desegregation? Not entirely. But it was a start.
Much like the school bond issue of 1970, SOSD continues to invest in improving our school campuses — including the historic Henderson complex. Through our current Building for Excellence campaign, we are continuing to create spaces where students want to learn and can pursue their dreams together.
For more information about our district's celebration of this important milestone, visit www.starkvillesd.com/50years.