Officials say Natchez-Adams school board vacancy not illegal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 25, 2000

The City of Natchez has no deadline to fill a vacant school board position, even though the vacancy allows the board to deadlock on issues, a state school board official said Monday.

&uot;There’s no violation of the law and no penalty for failure to fill that position,&uot; said John Hartman, executive director of the state’s school board association.

And Hartman said he has seen governing boards wait until June or into September to fill a vacant spot, though school board terms traditionally end in March.

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The Natchez-Adams School Board has had only four members after the June death of Dr. David Steckler.

Since Steckler was appointed to the school board by the Natchez Board of Aldermen, the aldermen must fill the vacancy.

The school board has held two regular meetings since Steckler’s death and on July 13 did, in fact, deadlock on a policy related to school board and superintendent travel.

Board members Don Marion and Camille Jackson voted to require all school board members and the school superintendent to approve any travel by the board, prior to the trip just like all other district employees.

Marion does not think this issue should be controversial because the board is responsible for all costs.

&uot;I think that’s just good management,&uot; he said.

But board members Kenneth Taylor and Terry&160;Estes voted against the motion because of how it was presented and the lack of details on the policy.

Taylor said he thought it was ridiculous to try to approve a policy that none of the other board members had ever heard about and without anything in writing.

Taylor thinks some travel are necessary to help improve the district but it can be difficult for a board members or the superintendent to know if they can make a trip until right before it is to take place.

This is specially true for the board members who work regular jobs in addition to serving the district.

&uot;We provide that community service around our jobs and we don’t need to be restricted in that manner,&uot; Taylor said.

Both Estes and Taylor said they would consider a travel policy if they had more information.

Because of the tied vote the motion died, which takes place anytime a board deadlocks.

&uot;A motion is only passed with a majority,&uot; said Bruce Kuehnle, school board attorney.

In that case, all the board members can do is discuss their concerns.

&uot;(It’s) just a matter of discussing it and working it out,&uot; said Kuehnle, who added that he thinks the school board generally agrees on issues.

And Hartman said even boards without vacant positions can deadlock, if a fifth board member ever abstains from voting.

Generally, it is not crucial to have all five positions on a school board filled, unless the district is dealing with some difficult or divisive issues, Hartman said.

He does not think the Natchez-Adams School Board has a history of such problems.

&uot;We’ve certainly been impressed with the work of the board and the superintendent there,&uot; Hartman said.

As of last week, the city officials did not know when they would make the appointment. The city board has not discussed any possible candidates since Mayor F.L. &uot;Hank&uot; Smith took office July 1.