Parents, residents express desires for next school superintendent

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Mississippi School Board Association consultant Harold Fisher leads the discussion Tuesday afternoon at about the qualities that the public wants to see in a new Natchez-Adams superintendent.

NATCHEZ — Of the approximately 30 people who dotted the rows of the Braden Auditorium Tuesday night, several were clear about what the top priority of the next superintendent of the Natchez-Adams School District should be — the students.

“It should be all about the children,” Sonjagela Johnson said. “We’re not looking for a friend, (but) somebody who can turn (the district) around.”

Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, who introduced herself as a retired teacher, said the superintendent should be open.

“(We need) someone with an open-door policy who is community oriented with a positive disposition and (is) committed to the total education of children,” Mathis said.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Bubba Geter and Evelyn Geter listen as Mississippi School Board Association consultant Harold Fisher leads the discussion, Tuesday afternoon at Braden, about the qualities that the public wants to see in a new Natchez-Adams superintendent.

Bill Furlow said the next superintendent must possess a sense of urgency about improving schools and spreading that message.

“(The superintendent should have) communication skills to sell the importance of the school district to residents without students in public schools,” he said.

Furlow also said the district should consider hiring someone outside of the education fields, such as the business world, who could be a CEO.

Willie Woods said the superintendent should have experience dealing with discipline issues, as well.

“We have a terrible discipline problem, and we have to face it,” Woods said.

Ward 2 Alderman James “Rickey” Gray said the next superintendent should focus on every child, even those who are not college bound.

“Every student is not going to go to a college, put (they can be prepared) for trade school, where you can pick up welding (or other trades),” Gray said.

Attendees also addressed the superintendent’s relationship with Natchez and Adams County.

Some speakers had different views about how close the new superintendent should be to the community before they take the job.

The Rev. LeRoy White said the superintendent should have no ties to Natchez.

“(The superintendent) should not be related to anyone here or have worked here before,” White said.

“We need fresh ideas to make sure we’re not doing the same thing.

Others, including Jennifer Minor, said the next superintendent should be familiar to the area.

“(He or she) needs to know people and the area,” Minor said.

Some said the superintendent should have children who attend the schools.

Liz Blalock, the president of the Frazier Elementary School PTA, said the district should hire someone who used to run a successful district or school or worked to turn a district around.

“(We need) someone who knows how to make our schools better,” she said.

Sharon Bradford, the vice president of the Robert Lewis Middle School PTA, said the superintendent should have a track record of improving parental involvement.

Race and poverty in the district was also discussed.

The Rev. Clifton Marvel said the new superintendent should reflect the racial makeup of the district. Students of the Natchez-Adams School District are more than 90 percent black.

Georgia Oliver, on the other hand, said the race of the superintendent did not matter, as long as he or she is open to the input of all stakeholders.

“I hope (the district) doesn’t have someone who says we have children from poor backgrounds (as an excuse). You demand what you get. We have acquiesced too much in the past,” she said.

“We need a superintendent who will set goals, who will ask the teachers and people in the trenches to (give) input,” she said.

Janice Davis, an employee parent and product of the district, said the superintendent must convince teachers and students they care about moving forward.

“I’m there, and I see it, and we need TLC (tender loving care),” she said.