Now is time to support schools, leaders

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, August 1, 2012

New Concordia Parish Superintendent Paul Nelson likely knew before Monday night that he wouldn’t always have the support of the entire parish school board.

Who can please nine people — the number of board members — anyway?

But it’s unfortunate that his tenure as the district’s top leader started off without a full vote of confidence.

Email newsletter signup

All nine of the members had voted in July to hire Nelson for the job. But Monday, when it came down to the details of the contract, things weren’t so unanimous.

Several board members argued that the length of the contract should be shorter in order to make sure Nelson adequately proves himself. The board ultimately approved a three-year contract, but four board members voiced dissension on that detail.

In addition, three board members voted against the $98,000 contract altogether, shaking the foundation of support the earlier unanimous vote had established.

In the end, Nelson has the job, the three-year contract and the $98,000 paycheck.

But will he have the most important detail — support?

The Concordia Parish School Board has always seemed too large. It’s a vastly stretched out parish, yes, and every resident deserves fair representation; but it’s rare to hear of a successful board with so many members.

The boards most successful at working through the business at hand typically have no more than six members.

With nine different opinions, sets of allegiances and personalities, support can be a difficult thing to corral from the CPSB.

Instead, most decisions come down to majority, not unanimity.

Unfortunately, the community tends to follow the board’s lead, dividing its support and making the road ahead a tough one for anyone.

Both the parish and Natchez public schools will begin a new school year in a few weeks with new leadership, a new plan and a new direction.

From the Concordia magnet school to massive reorganization efforts in Natchez, this school year will be different.

That’s what the community has wanted for years.

Neither of the new superintendents or the new district-wide plans have been proven effective yet.

But that means they haven’t proven problematic yet either.

To start a school year full of fresh faces and fresh projects with a “no” vote of any kind is only inviting trouble onto the scene.

Board and community members are entitled to their opinions about the new leaders and new projects after six months, but for now, the only appropriate response is one of positive support.

Both boards opted to go in their current directions, so both boards must go out of their way to make those efforts a success.

The community must, in turn, keep an open mind as our public schools move forward, try new things, succeed at some things and fail at others.

But if everyone is not willing to get on board and offer support to the districts and their leaders, we’ll all be destined for failure.


Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or