By David A. Farrell, Item Staff Writer
The Picayune Item
At Tuesday’s school board meeting, Picayune school board member Frank Feeley fired back at two Picayune real estate agents who appeared before the City Council on Feb. 19 and told the council they were losing sales of homes here because of a “bad perception” of the Picayune school system.
“It is alarming to me,” the outspoken Feeley told fellow school board members, “that we’ve got real estate people here in Picayune, who because they can’t sell a home here, blame the school system for it.”
Feeley referred to the council meeting when the two agents — Tammy Valente and Michelle Fradella, both described as members of the Board of Realtors here — appeared before the council with their complaints.
Valente told the council that it is “hard to sell homes in the city” because of the “negative perception of the Picayune Municipal Separate School District” by prospective home buyers. She maintained most buy outside the city and in Hancock County because of the reputation of the school system here.
Calling Valente and Fradella’s information “hearsay,” Feeley continued, “They gave hearsay information, and it was disturbing to me. We graduate kids here and get them ready for college or the work force, and that is what we do. Do we want to do better? Yes! Are we going to do better? Yes we are! But if you can’t sell real estate, don’t blame us.”
Added Feeley, “Fifty-one kids score 24 or higher on the ACT test here, 51 at our high school; that’s a full ride at any junior college in the state of Mississippi. Seventeen scored 29 or higher and that’s a full ride at any university in the state for our kids.
“I don’t know what Hancock has got or what PRC has, but don’t blame us for your not being able to sell a house in Picayune,” said Feeley.
Valente told the council that four out of five homes she sells are sold outside the city limits, and she added that five of the seven families she knows in the Woods subdivision take their kids to a private school. However, she presented no documentation to the council concerning her charges, though she did say a real estate web site tracks what potential home buyers research on-line about an area.
Feeley pounced on that, calling what the two real estate agents said “hearsay.”
He said Picayune’s graduation percentage for the last five years was 79.1 percent, higher than any other school in the area, and added, “What I am saying is the facts, not hearsay.
“I have said what I say here because I don’t appreciate what was said about our school system; I appreciate the hard work done here by the staff and school employees. They work very hard, and I don’t appreciate what was said,” added Feeley.
“We are not the reason you can’t sell a house here,” he reiterated.
“Can we do better and are we going to do better? Yes we can and yes we will, but I want to tell the school administration that we appreciate you and will do everything within our power to see that you have the resources to do an even better job,” said Feeley.
After Feeley presented his thoughts on the issue, board vice president Patti Stewart, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of board president Ed Stubbs, replied, “I second that.”
No one else made any comments pertaining to the real estate agents’’ remarks, and Feeley made his comments as the meeting started, after the board returned from its annual tour of the district’s campuses to have a short lunch before starting its Tuesday meeting at noon in the board room.
Feeley was the first to speak. He made the comments after congratulating school officials on the appearance of the schools.
On other matters, the board:
— Approved the Jan. 29 board minutes. — Approved certified and classified personnel.
— Went into an executive session to discuss a student discipline issue.