OKOLONA, Miss. (WTVA) -- Okolona City Councilman Bennett Moore remembers the day in 2010 he found out the city was losing control of the public schools.
"When they said the school is being taken over, we were like, 'Why?' It came as a big surprise. I thought everything was doing great," Moore said.
What he and others discovered was the district was in financial trouble. More than $500,000 had to be borrowed to pay the bills and meet payroll.
Test scores were at failing status.
Career guidance counselor Lesley Mabry had concerns of his own.
"I really was concerned that they were not learning what they should have been learning. With the standardized tests now, sometimes it does tell the true story, and sometimes it doesn't tell the true story," Mabry said.
The Mississippi Board of Education formed an opinion and quickly took over in March 2010.
Now, the state is ready to return the district to local control.
The Okolona City Council will choose five school board members. It's a task the current leader of the school district hopes will be executed well.
"It's critical that you get the right five people in here to run the district because once it goes out of conservatorship should it fail again either financially or academically, then the district will be completely abolished. There will not be a school district in that area," Malone said.
That is actually one of three possibilities under Senate Bill 2737, according to Department of Education spokesman Pete Smith.
The bill passed by the Legislature says the state Board of Education can also place the district back under conservatorship or reduce the size of the district and administratively consolidate parts of the district.
Hoping for the best is the new principal.
"We're working toward being successful, and right now, we're making pretty good progress, and we hope to maintain that and even do better than the school has done," Branda Kornegay said.
The conservator says if the state has to step back in and take over, it's essentially considered a death sentence.
The school board and superintendent would be eliminated permanently.