Vacant Natchez-Adams school board post still uncertain

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2000

If Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis had his wish, a vacant position on the Natchez-Adams School Board will be filled by the first day of school Aug. 10.

But he knows that might not be possible even if many district officials think it is necessary.

&uot;I would love to know in August (who will be the new board member),&uot; Davis said.

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Since then the board has operated with only four members – which led to inaction on a motion at a board meeting last week because of a tie vote.

A school board position has been vacant since the June death of Dr. David Steckler, who was appointed to the board by the Natchez Board of Aldermen.

The board will hold its next regular meeting Aug. 10, the same day students return to school for the 2000-01 school year.

Davis said he thinks the district needs five board members because it could operate better with five different points of view represented.

&uot;You just got to have the other point of view,&uot; he said.

Some other district and city officials agree with Davis.

School Board President Kenneth Taylor said he thinks the position should be filled as soon as possible.

&uot;The board requires five people in order to have the right number of people to debate issues facing the district,&uot; Taylor said.

The board also needs the fifth person to break any ties that occur during a meeting, which occurred during last week’s regular board meeting. A motion related to school board and superintendent travel died because of a tied vote.

&uot;We really need the fifth person because we need the input,&uot; Taylor said.

The position could remain vacant until the Natchez Board of Aldermen decides to appoint a new person.

&uot;Why are we waiting?&uot; Davis said. &uot;We’re making a lot of decisions on what’s best for the school district.&uot;

Davis said he thinks the district is at a serious point in its development, he said.

&uot;We need to stick together and work together as a complete unit,&uot; he said.

Natchez Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith said the Natchez Board of Aldermen does not have anyone in mind and does not have a time frame in place for filling the vacant spot.

&uot;We are all aware it’s something we’re going to have to do,&uot; Smith said.

Smith said one question that remains is if the aldermen and the Adams&160;County Board of Supervisors can switch the school board from appointed to elected, with an inter-local agreement and without approval from the state Legislature.

&uot;Those are all questions, that are kind of up in the air,&uot; Smith said.

City attorney Walter Brown is waiting for an opinion from the attorney general’s office on the issue.

Currently, the aldermen appoints three of the school board and the supervisors appoint two.

Both boards have gone on record supporting an elected school board but attempts by the legislature to secure this objective have failed. A federal lawsuit was also unsuccessful.

Aldermen David Massey agrees the school board needs a fifth member, but the matter has not been discussed.

&uot;It should have been done two or three weeks ago,&uot; said Massey, who also said the board has not discussed any possible candidates since Smith took office July 1.

Dale Steckler, the widow of Dr. David Steckler, was the only name brought before the board, Massey said.

The board discussed appointing Dale Steckler in June during the former mayor’s administration, but several board members objected.

Alderman Sue Stedman said she thinks having five members on the board becomes critical during tie votes or quorum issues. The school board must have at least three members present to conduct business.

Stedman said the aldermen not even discussed how to get suggested names to fill the vacant school board post.

Aldermen Joyce Arceneaux, James &uot;Ricky&uot; Gray, Theodore &uot;Bubber&uot; West and Jake Middleton could not be reached for comment.