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
Email newsletter signup
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
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;
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,
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.