Elected school board on table?

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, July 19, 2011

NATCHEZ — During the height of campaign season Monday, the Adams County Board of Supervisors were vocal about wanting Natchez-Adams School Board members to join them on the trail.

The supervisors invited local legislators to their meeting Monday to inquire about sending a stronger message to the Mississippi state legislature that the NASD school board should be elected instead of appointed.

“The board’s position (is) individuals on the school board should be elected because of their ability to levy taxes,” Grennell said.

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District 5 Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter told Sen. Bob Dearing, the only legislator to attend, the board has sent a resolution to the state in support of elected school boards each of the eight years he has served on the board, and nothing has been done.

“Somebody’s stopping it,” Felter said. “What do we need to do (to pass the measure)?”

Dearing said the senate passed a measure years ago for a local option, allowing counties and municipalities to decide for themselves whether school board members are elected.

“But the House (of Representatives) has not done anything (to move it forward),” Dearing said.

Dearing said the current timing is not good to push elected school board legislation during an election year.

“Timing on any legislation is the key,” Dearing said.

However, Dearing said he would pre-file legislation in the senate concerning elected school boards following the general election.

Dearing said he agrees that school boards should be elected, but he would prefer school superintendents remain appointed.

“I would rather have an elected school board that hires the best qualified director,” Dearing said.

Dearing said more than half of the state’s municipalities appoint their school boards. Some counties, like Rankin and Amite counties, elect school boards and school superintendents.

Dearing said the measure to move to elected school boards has likely failed to move forward in the legislature because legislators, especially on that issue, tend to vote for whatever is good for their own district.

District 2 Supervisor Henry Watts asked about the payment of elected school board members.

Dearing said he believes some elected members get paid $200 a month. The low pay for school board members, Dearing said, serves as an argument against electing board members.

“Who would want to work the headache of running (in an election) for $200,” Dearing said.

Watts asked what the requirements would be for a school board member to run for a seat.

Dearing said school board member candidates likely have to be a resident of the area and have received a high school diploma in order to qualify.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office requires county school board members also produce a petition with 50 signatures from qualified electors, a SOS qualifying guide report says.

“Qualifications are up to the beholder,” Dearing said.