School board gets new members

Published 11:15 pm Thursday, September 6, 2007

NATCHEZ — Thelma Newsome and Matilda Stephens were selected to replace two outgoing school board members at the Aug. 28 aldermen meeting.

Retired teacher and administrator Millicent Mayo was nominated for the position, but the board was deadlocked 3-3 when voting. Mayor Phillip West broke the tie in favor of Newsome.

Newsome is a currently a fourth-grade teacher at Ferriday Upper Elementary School. Prior to that she worked in the Natchez-Adams School District for 32 years as a teacher and administrator. Most recently she was director of federal programs with the district.

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Newsome said she was ready to serve on the board because she feels she has something to offer.

“Having and experienced person on the board, someone who has worked in the schools, (brings) insight into how things should operate on the board,” she said.

She said her No. 1 goal would be working to raise test scores and hiring the best teachers available.

Stephens is the director of the Sunshine Children’s Center and a graduate of the Natchez district.

“I just believe in public schools,” she said. “When the opening became available, I really felt compelled to throw my hat into the ring.”

Stephens said she’d like to see the district capitalize on local resources, like the arts, to make learning exciting for children.

“It takes stepping outside the box in the way you think to engage students,” she said. “The only way we’ll raise test scores is to find those unique partnerships with the community.”

Newsome and Stephens replace two outgoing school board members. James Coleman, indicted in August on charges of 16 counts of embezzlement from Mississippi River Corp., resigned from his position on the school board and the civil service commission after his arrest.

Johnny Dale’s school board term expired and he chose not to serve again.