Desert

Public expresses concerns with city, county, school leaders

Published 12:01am Tuesday, July 1, 2014

School board member Thelma Newsome said the district has difficulties attracting new, qualified teachers because it does not have the resources other districts have.

“We have very little to offer in terms of recreation, we have no industry to offer for jobs for their spouses,” she said. “You have very few people who will come to the table where Natchez is (at a recruiting fair).”

Hill said he has no problem hiring people from Natchez.

“I look at who is going to be the best candidate for the job as I feel is going to be best for the district,” he said. “People have to apply. I do not go looking for somebody and say, ‘You are going to be the best person for that slot.’”

During the meeting, several people spoke about their own attempts to be hired or be promoted within the district or the attempts of people close to them.

Blalock said the board hires only two people, the superintendent and their lawyer. The superintendent hires administrators, but leaves the hiring of teachers to them, he said.

Hill said he has an open door policy for anyone who wants to discuss employment decisions in the district.

A significant portion of the meeting focused on the district’s discipline decision related to a large-scale brawl at Natchez High School late in the spring semester.

Following the fight, 17 students were arrested and faced disciplinary action.

Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill responds to some of the questions and statements made by members of the public. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter / The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez-Adams School District Superintendent Frederick Hill responds to some of the questions and statements made by members of the public. (Mary Kathryn Carpenter / The Natchez Democrat)

At the meeting, resident Barney Scoby Jr., said that punishment included a lengthy suspension and reassignment to an alternative school through the end of next year. Several people at the meeting — including Scoby and Natchez Alderman Ricky Gray — protested that the disciplinary action was too severe and was not fairly applied.

“Even in the court, if you haven’t done anything in your life, the judge will look at your record and say, ‘You’ve never done anything before,’” Gray said. “Half of the kids we are talking about are good kids.”

Hill said the students were given due process and that the disciplinary process starts with the principal.

“If it gets to my level, consideration is given to every single child separately,” he said.

School board members said that while they have heard individual complaints, no unified group of citizens has approached them — including at their public meetings — before Monday about their concerns.

The superintendent said he has a committee of community members that meets every month, and everyone is welcome to attend.

Suggestions from the committee have been taken and integrated into policy changes he has presented to the school board in the last year, Hill said.

The next meeting will be 6 p.m. Aug. 25 at Natchez High School, he said.