Mis­sis­sippi names top teacher and school ad­min­is­tra­tor

Starkville Daily News - - AROUND TOWN -

MERID­IAN — The Na­tional Weather Ser­vice says a tor­nado ripped through parts of Louisiana and Mis­sis­sippi caus­ing some dam­age.

The weather ser­vice says a tor­nado touched down Satur­day night in Merid­ian, Mis­sis­sippi, with max­i­mum winds of 115 mph knock­ing out power and up­root­ing trees. A storm sur­vey con­firmed an­other tor­nado blew through Rich­land Par­ish near Rayville, Louisiana, on Sun­day af­ter­noon.

The weather ser­vice says the “weak” tor­nado in Louisiana caused only mi­nor tree dam­age.

But in Mis­sis­sippi, news out­lets re­port the roof was blown off the Ge­orge Reese Court apart­ments in Merid­ian and trees fell on sev­eral homes. Parts of High­way 45 near Mar­ion were also blocked due to the fallen trees.

Mar­ion Po­lice Chief Ran­dall Davis says at least one per­son was in­jured in the Satur­day storm but wasn’t life-threat­en­ing.

JACK­SON — Mis­sis­sippi is hon­or­ing its teacher and school ad­min­is­tra­tor of the year.

The Mis­sis­sippi Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion says Whit­ney Drewrey, who teaches stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties at Lafayette Up­per El­e­men­tary School in the Lafayette County school dis­trict near Ox­ford, is the teacher of the year.

The ad­min­is­tra­tor of the year is Howard Sav­age Jr., prin­ci­pal of Quit­man High School in the east Mis­sis­sippi town of Quit­man.

Drewrey, a teacher for 15 years, says she left her “com­fort zone” of teach­ing sci­ence to in­struct stu­dents with dis­abil­i­ties. She wins a $5,000 award and will com­pete for na­tional teacher of the year.

Sav­age is be­ing rec­og­nized for his lead­er­ship in help­ing his school ad­vance to a B rat­ing on the state grad­ing sys­tem af­ter three straight years rated D.

He also gets $5,000.

JACK­SON(AP) — A fed­eral trial is sched­uled to start Mon­day over claims by six black-owned fu­neral homes that a Mis­sis­sippi Gulf Coast coro­ner il­le­gally dis­crim­i­nates in fa­vor of two white-owned com­peti­tors.

The dis­pute re­volves around cases where Harrison County pays for a body to be picked up, stored, au­top­sied or buried. The case al­leges fed­eral civil rights and state law violations by the county coro­ner against a back­drop of a business that re­mains starkly seg­re­gated by race in the Deep South.

U.S. Dis­trict Judge Keith Star­rett, in pre­trial rul­ings, has in­di­cated the key ques­tion will be prov­ing whether long­time Harrison County Coro­ner Gary Har­grove made the de­ci­sions about where to di­rect bod­ies in each in­stance. That sug­gests a long slog could be in store for the Gulf­port court.

“Plain­tiffs’ bur­den is to prove that Har­grove dis­crim­i­nated when it fell to him to choose which fu­neral home to send a body,” Star­rett wrote. “Part of that re­quires proof that Har­grove made the de­ci­sion.”

Ev­i­dence shows the white fu­neral homes got 93 per­cent of the total business from 2012 to 2016, while black fu­neral homes got 7 per­cent. That in­cludes buri­als of in­di­gents, au­topsy cases and bod­ies re­leased by the coro­ner. Plain­tiffs have ar­gued that Har­grove used pub­lic money to main­tain racial seg­re­ga­tion and that each fu­neral home should have got­ten one-eighth of the business. But they say the real mon­e­tary losses are in funer­als the black-owned fu­neral homes didn’t con­duct, ar­gu­ing that fam­ily mem­bers usu­ally let a fu­neral home that re­ceived a body con­duct ser­vices. The six black fu­neral homes say they’re owed $870,000 in lost prof­its from 2012 to 2016. The ex­pert who pre­pared that es­ti­mate had orig­i­nally put the black fu­neral homes’ losses at $6.4 mil­lion.

Star­rett al­ready threw a mon­key wrench into the plain­tiffs’ case by dis­al­low­ing their plan for a lawyer to tes­tify about a sum­mary of 5,281 coro­ners’ files. The plain­tiffs then scram­bled to have par­ale­gals pre­pare charts sum­ma­riz­ing data, and Star­rett has said he will al­low most of those to be pre­sented to a jury.

Plain­tiffs ar­gue there’s still plenty of ev­i­dence that Har­grove dis­crim­i­nated against them when di­rect­ing who would get county-con­trolled business. One black fu­neral home owner has tes­ti­fied that Har­grove once told her that “white bod­ies go to the white fu­neral homes and black bod­ies go to the black fu­neral home.”

But Har­grove and Harrison County, which would have to pay dam­ages, ar­gue that in many cases, some­one else chose. They say the de­ceased, their rel­a­tives and friends had made choices along racial lines, cit­ing mul­ti­ple in­di­gent and au­topsy files that show some­one else be­sides Har­grove de­cided which fu­neral home should han­dle a body. When it comes to re­leas­ing bod­ies, Harrison County Board of Su­per­vi­sors at­tor­ney Tim Holle­man wrote that “in the vast ma­jor­ity of all of these files there is some­one present who has pri­or­ity over the coro­ner to make the de­ci­sion as to which fu­neral home would han­dle the fu­neral ser­vices for their loved one.”

The county and Har­grove also say that a now-de­ceased pathol­o­gist whom Har­grove didn’t con­trol did all his au­top­sies at white-owned fu­neral homes.

Star­rett has also said the county can present ev­i­dence of racially di­vided fu­neral home choices from Harrison County deaths in which Har­grove didn’t of­fi­ci­ate, as well as from other Mis­sis­sippi coun­ties.

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