Vote on Davis contract still a mystery

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 12, 2002

Saturday, January 12, 2002

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ – Superintendent Dr. Carl Davis received a two-year

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extension on his contract Thursday but whether all five board

members voted in favor of the decision remained a mystery Friday.

Based on a state open meetings law, the members of the Natchez-Adams

School Board cast their votes on the matter during executive session

instead of in public session.

Prior to the discussion on Davis’ contract and the vote, even

people usually permitted to attend executive session were asked

to leave.

This included Davis, employees who record the minutes of the

meeting and other high-ranking district employees leaving only

the board members and the board’s attorney present.

Davis, who said Friday morning that he had not heard the breakdown

on the vote, said a key next step would be to further discuss

goals and objectives for the district with the board members and

to work further with the board.

&uot;I feel that we’ve got some things to work on (with) the

board and superintendent’s relationship,&uot; Davis said.

He also hopes the community will stay involved in issues pertaining

to the board, its members and the school district.

As for how the board members handled the vote, Davis said he

just wants the board to follow the law.

&uot;I believe they should follow the law,&uot; he said.

&uot;Whatever the law gives them latitude to do, that’s what

they should do.&uot;

Davis said he understood the public’s need to have the information

earlier but if the community feels that way he thinks that is

something it needs to make known.

&uot;It’s just going to be (something where) the community

needs to come to the board and say ‘Look. This is not what the

community wants’ if that’s not what the community wants,&uot;

Davis said.

Even though the board members did not have to vote on Davis’

contract in a public setting, the law still requires them to make

the information public in the board minutes within 30 days.

&uot;It’s supposed to be open and it is open but the law does

give them 30 days to get this done,&uot; Davis said.

Board member Camille Jackson declined to comment on the vote

because the board decided several months ago to keep matters approved

during executive session private until they appear in the minutes.

However, she did not approve of how the board handled the situation.

&uot;I feel a decision made on the superintendent’s renewal

should be a public decision, not a decision made in executive

session,&uot; she said.

And she also wants the public to understand that even though

the majority of the board voted to extend Davis’ contract, no

one in the public knows at this time how individual board members


Board member Don Marion also declined to comment on the specifics

of the vote. He also questioned whether the matter met the criteria

of matters that should be decided during executive session.

At an earlier board meeting, the members had decided only to

handle decisions in executive session of a legal nature or those

that could be damaging to the district if released early to the


&uot;This one, to me, would have been appropriate to take

outside executive session,&uot; Marion said.

But regardless of how individual board members vote on any

issue, its customary for the board members to stand behind the

majority’s decisions, Marion said.

&uot;Regardless of how I voted the majority of the board obviously

wanted to give him a two year extension. That’s obvious,&uot;

Marion said. &uot;I feel obligated to support what the majority

of the board did.&uot;

Mike Lanford, an attorney with the Mississippi attorney general’s

office, said even though it is a good policy for board members

to be open with their executive session actions after the meeting

to his understanding they are not required to do so.

&uot;There nothing that says you have to announce how everybody

voted,&uot; he said.

The board also does not have to say what action it took during

executive session as long as it includes this information with

the breakdown on the votes in the board minutes within 30 days,

Lanford said.

Despite this legal option, the law does not prohibit an individual

board member from speaking on executive sessions matters after

the session is over, he said.

&uot;There’s nothing that says you can’t breach the confidence

of executive session if you want to,&uot; Lanford said.

Davis signed a contract with the district in January 1999 that

was set to expire June 30. If the board had not made a decision

on his contract by Feb. 1, it would have automatically been extended

for one year.

Despite Thursday’s decision, Davis, who has admitted previously

to looking for jobs elsewhere, said he was not quite ready to

put an end to that search.

&uot;At this point, I don’t feel comfortable telling them

to withdraw my name,&uot; he said.

Board members Dr. Norris Edney, Dale Steckler and Kenneth Taylor

could not be reached for comment Friday.