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Fundraising falls short in Panola, but fight remains to keep school district

Facing annexation, Panola Public Schools tried to raise $256,000 by June 30 to save its school. But the state Education Department continues to work with the district to get its finances in order.
by Jennifer Palmer Modified: July 6, 2014 at 10:00 am •  Published: July 6, 2014

Though its upcoming school year remains uncertain, Panola Public Schools hasn’t given up.

A deadline given by the state Education Department to raise $256,000 has passed, and the small rural school district in southeastern Oklahoma had fallen $150,000 short as of Tuesday, the school’s superintendent said. But the community keeps raising money, and the department said it will work with the school district to get its finances on track.

“We are continuing to fight the fight to make Panola School viable while maintaining our commitment to excellence in education,” said Superintendent Brad Corcoran. “Panola School is not shutting down its efforts because June 30 has come and gone.”

In a letter dated June 19, the department asks the school for additional details about its financial situation so the information can be presented to the State Board of Education at its July 24 meeting.

The school district sought to meet its obligations by the end of the fiscal year, which was June 30, or face annexation. A grant for the school nurse saved $22,000 and donations from private individuals and fundraisers totaled $38,800.

An audit on June 17 discovered $252,000 that was left out of the school’s estimated needs and about $178,000 of it could be appropriated. That allowed the school to make June and July payroll, Corcoran said. But the district is still coming up short.

The financial uncertainty in Panola has led to a teacher shortage, said Corcoran, who took over as superintendent May 12, amid the money crisis.

“We’ve lost a few teachers,” he said. “We’ll be looking to fill some positions.”

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by Jennifer Palmer
Investigative Reporter
Jennifer Palmer joined The Oklahoman staff in 2008 and, after five years on the business desk, is now digging deeper through investigative work. She's been recognized with awards in public service reporting and personal column writing. Prior to...
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