Aldermen hold public hearing
Published 7:00 am Wednesday, January 18, 2017
After a lengthy public hearing, the Poplarville Board of Aldermen voted to take the matter of declaring whether a homeschool operating in a residential zone is in compliance with city ordinances under advisement.
The Board heard testimony from both sides of the debate concerning Kimra Torrence’s homeschool, located at her home at 416 North Jackson Street.
“The reason we’re here today is to determine if what she’s doing constitutes as school as defined by the Mississippi Compulsory Attendance Law,” Board Attorney Nick Thompson said. “If the Board determines she is operating a school, then she is in compliance because city ordinance allows her to operate a school in any zone.”
Thompson asked Torrence a series of questions relating to the operation of the homeschool program.
Torrence’s neighbor, Jim Brown, has complained to the Board since November, asking the Board to write a cease and desist order for the school.
Several members of the public spoke on Torrence’s behalf, including Pearl River County Supervisor Hudson Holliday, Rev. Jimmy Richardson, Agnes Dalton, Sandra Payne and School Attendance Officer Melinda McGill.
The Board approved a request from Brown—the sole community member in attendance opposing Torrence’s homeschool—to extend his three minutes allotted to speak to ten minutes in order to present a series of documents he collected.
Brown said his argument was that Torrence was not operating a legally defined school, and should not be allowed to operate in an R-1 zone. Brown commended Torrence’s work and said “Mrs. Torrence can have her school in the appropriate zoning area.”
After Brown concluded his initial argument, Holliday, who’s granddaughter attends Torrence’s homeschool, came before the Board on her behalf.
Holliday said his granddaughter was forced to find an alternate schooling method because adequate services weren’t provided in the public school system.
“This is a service that’s needed in this town,” he said.
Torrence then addressed the Board.
“When I first started this, I didn’t think I was going to be (providing) a school… I thought I’d tutor some kids, but sometimes you have a plan and God has a different plan,” Torrence said. “I want to keep doing what I’m doing in the fashion that I’m doing. We have done everything that we can possibly do to make sure that we’re providing the best possible service to the children here in Poplarville.”
Torrence said each one of her students register as a homeschooler with the state, and are in full compliance with what McGill called lenient state regulation for homeschooling.
Before approving a motion to take the matter under advisement. Poplarville Mayor Brad Necaise asked Brown why he was the only person in attendance that opposed the school Brown said the mayor’s previous remarks deterred others from attending.
“I do not believe you for one second,” Necaise said. “I’ll say the same thing I said about you last time, you’re an angry, angry man.”
Routine matters discussed during Tuesday’s meeting will be published in tomorrow’s Item.