Clinton celebrates 50 years as a separate school district

In its 50-year history, the Clinton Public School District has seen many changes.

“We have many new facilities, many new people, the curriculum has changed and so has technology,” said Dr. Tim Martin, superintendent of schools. “The one thing that has remained the same is our commitment to excellence. Throughout our history Clinton has been at or very near the top academically, and we plan to continue this going forward.”

Throughout the school year, CPSD will be celebrating the achievements, people and significant milestones of its history. There will be a pregame ceremony at the Homecoming football game on Oct. 11, featuring former district leaders and students.

“It’s so important to commemorate all the accomplishments of our district and to recognize the impact our schools have had on this community,” said Barbie Ferguson, retired teacher and 50th Anniversary Committee chairwoman. “You simply cannot overstate the importance our schools have had on the lives of thousands of people over the years.”

 

Humble beginnings

During the latter part of 1969 and the first part of 1970, leaders in the Clinton community were successful in separating the three Clinton schools from the jurisdiction of the Hinds County School District and established a new school district titled Clinton Municipal Separate School District. This name was according to state law.

“The word ‘separate’ indicated that the new district was separate from the county school district,” said Dr. Virgil Belue, CPSD’s first superintendent who held this position from 1970-1992. “After a lot of people in Mississippi believed the word in their names indicated that it had to do with segregated schools, the State Legislature passed a law that municipal school districts could remove the word from their names.”

After this law went into effect, the Clinton School Board chose to rename the district to the Clinton Public School District. The separation from Hinds County changed the taxing authority from the county board of supervisors to the aldermen of the city of Clinton.

The city mayor and board of aldermen appointed five people to serve as trustees for the new school district. As per state law, the school board members served five years with staggered terms so that each year one member’s term would expire.

This law also provided that if there were more than 15% of students living outside the city of Clinton, the citizens there would be entitled to elect two of the five school board members, and this process allowed for two elected members.

The law stated that if the student enrollment from the area outside the city dropped below 15%, the city board of aldermen would appoint all five school board members. This is the procedure currently in place for the Clinton school board.

Over the past five decades:

  • CPSD’s enrollment has grown from about 2,700 in 1971 to more than 5,300 today

  • CPSD has had only five superintendents – Dr. Virgil Belue, Dr. Randy McCoy, Dr. Tommye Henderson, Dr. Phil Burchfield and Dr. Tim Martin

  • Since 1988, when Mississippi school ratings were put into place, CPSD has been rated at the top nearly every year (Level 5 some years, High Performing some years, “Star” or A. These labels are established by state and/or federal law and have changed multiple times)

  • Three CPSD schools have earned National Blue Ribbon status – Clinton High School in 1983, Lovett Elementary School in 2013 and Eastside Elementary School in 2018

  • CPSD has earned overwhelming community support for every bond issue it sought for new or upgraded facilities.

  • Then-Vice President George H.W. Bush visited CHS in 1987, and then-First Lady Michelle Obama visited Eastside Elementary School in 2013

 

In its 50-year history, CPSD has only had five superintendents, (from left) Dr. Virgil Belue, Dr. Randy McCoy, Dr. Tommye Henderson, Dr. Phil Burchfield and Dr. Tim Martin.

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