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Democrat plans coverage of May 23 election

On May 23, Adams County voters will not only decide the future of the Natchez-Adams County School District, but the future of the entire community as well.

In less than a month, ballots will be cast for or against a proposed $35 million dollar school bond issue.

To pass, the proposal must be approved by at least 60 percent of the ballots cast.

Earlier this year, NASD Superintendent Fred Butcher and Deputy Superintendent Zandra McDonald hosted a series of forums to explain to the community the district’s plans to build a new high school and renovate several other school campuses.

Butcher and McDonald used statistics and photographs to make a strong case for their proposal. Feedback from the community forums, the district says, was overwhelmingly positive.

The May 23 referendum is shaping up to be a defining moment for the community. Whether or not voters decide the struggling school district needs or deserves a new high school and newly-renovated buildings, the results of the election have the potential to impact not just education, but the future of economic development and industrial recruitment as well.

For the next 25 days, The Natchez Democrat will offer readers a detailed view of the issues surrounding the referendum.

Starting today, the newspaper will look at all sides of the issues, talking with those who are for and against the bond issue.

This weekend we will lay out in detail the district’s argument for its current proposal. We will also talk with local leaders and residents about why they do or do not support the district’s plan.

We will also look at what effect new school buildings can have on student performance. What do local officials think? What do studies say about school construction and how it affects test scores and school productivity?

The following week, we plan to publish a series of stories that break down the school district’s plans.

We will begin with a detailed look at the proposed new high school. We will explain the challenges of the current high school and how the new design proposes to address them.

The next three days, we will do the same for the Natchez Middle School, McLaurin Elementary School and Morgantown Elementary School.

The following Sunday we will take a look at possible alternatives to the school district’s proposal. We will look at whether the district can pay for the project without a bond issue. We will also look at how other communities across the state have approached challenges similar to our own.

We will also detail the next steps for the school district if the bond issue fails.

Finally, we will talk to leaders in the business community to discover their positions on the referendum.

To provide more complete coverage of the referendum, we need your help.

We want to hear your opinion about the issue. We will be accepting letters to the editor about the Natchez-Adams School District bond election from today until May 19.

If you have an opinion you want to share about the issues surrounding the referendum, send your letters to newsroom@natchezdemocrat.com or drop them by our office at 503 N. Canal St. in Natchez.

Letters to the editor must be between 300 and 500 words long. They must be signed by the author and include a phone number for verification. We will not accept anonymous submissions.

Letters will be published on a first-come, first-served basis.

When the election results are final, we hope that The Natchez Democrat will have played a pivotal role in the process by providing balanced coverage of the issues.

After all, the future of our schools and community are at stake.

Ben Hillyer is the news editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3540 or by email at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrt.com