Elected school board still a possibility

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 12, 2000

After nearly four years of asking the state Legislature for permission for an elected school board, the city and county may have the opportunity to make the decision themselves.

If the Natchez Board of Aldermen and the Adams County Board of Supervisors agree school board members should be elected, they may enter into an inter-local agreement and bypass the state Legistlature, according to two members of the board of aldermen.

Aldermen voted 5-1 Tuesday to begin discussing the issue with the board of supervisors. Ward 4 Alderman Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West recommended the board put its position &uot;on the record&uot; by calling for a vote among board members as to where they stood on the matter.

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West said he first heard of the inter-local agreement alternative about a month ago from a state representative. Because the Natchez-Adams School District qualifies as a special municipal district, such an agreement allows local government to proceed without permission from the state, West said.

County Attorney Marion Smith said he has not researched the possibility of an inter-local agreement and did not know whether it would be possible. In the past, the city and county have said the Legislature, which created the school district, would have to make any changes to the school board.

Past efforts to switch the board from appointed to elected have failed. And a lawsuit seeking the change was dismissed by a federal judge.

The board of aldermen has been on record as being in favor of an elected school board since 1988, but several &uot;roadblocks&uot; have prevented progress, Ward 4 Alderman David Massey said.

Supervisor Darryl Grennell, who is also aware of the inter-local agreement alternative, said he would like to see either an elected school board or a board appointed by supervisory districts, although his preference is an elected board.

&uot;My rationale on that is because they have the power to levy taxes, they should be accountable to all the taxpayers,&uot; Grennell said, adding that he also believes school board members should represent the entire county.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sue Stedman was the only alderman to vote against an elected school board.

Stedman said she fears an election could cause the school board to become too politicized. She cited at least one study which says appointed boards are more efficient.

If the city and county reach a consensus on the inter-local agreement, elections could take place as early as the general election in November, Massey said.

&uot;If both boards agree and sign off on it, we’ll have an elected school board,&uot; he said.

West said the justice department must also approve such an agreement before the city and county can put it into effect.

The two boards will meet this morning at the invitation of the board of supervisors for coffee and cake and to become acquainted with the new city officials. While no agenda is set, some aldermen agreed the boards would discuss many key topics, including an elected school board.

West said he is confident the issue will surface today. &uot;If it doesn’t, I’ll surface it,&uot; he said.