Residents request supervisors take on Natchez school district

Published 12:11 am Tuesday, June 3, 2014

NATCHEZ — With upset residents demanding they do something, the Adams County Board of Supervisors renewed Monday a previous call to make the Natchez-Adams County School District board an elected body.

The vote followed comments from members of the community, who expressed dismay at the dismissal of some NASD employees. Other community members said they believed the evaluation processes school district administrators used for teachers were unfair.

Speaking for the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Rev. Clifton Marvel asked the supervisors why they haven’t done more in light of a recent round of NASD restructuring.

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“Why has your board been silent?” he asked. “Why have you not spoken out against this treatment against people who have supported you in the past?”

The children the NASD serves should be afforded a high quality education provided by highly qualified educators, Marvel said, but recent decisions by the school district seemed to not take that into consideration.

“In order for our schools to succeed, we must employ those who are vested in the children and in this community,” he said. “We implore you to be vocal about the happenings in the NASD.

“Ultimately, children suffer when high turnover exists. Do not let the children suffer.”

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she and President Darryl Grennell met with three school board members about the recent restructuring.

Supervisor Mike Lazarus said he has also spoken with board members about the issue.

“We have not been silent, but we felt like before we got into anything, we need to find out what is going on,” Hutchins said.

Grennell said the board members told the supervisors no one who has been given a notice of non-renewal or terminal has appealed it to the school board.

“It is protocol that if one is terminated or pink slipped, they have the right to appeal before their board, so I would recommend those individuals, if they feel they are not justified in receiving a pink slip, they should appeal that so they can meet before their board,” he said.

Lazarus said his meeting was prompted by community outcry about the terminations.

“I expressed my concerns, but further than that, I don’t know what to do,” he said. “(Superintendent Frederick) Hill works for them, the school board.”

Hutchins said she and Grennell had also spoken with some of the teachers affected by the personnel changes.

When community member Amos James asked the board if they would consider changing the structure of the school district’s board of trustees to being elected rather than appointed, the supervisors unanimously passed a resolution in support of the idea.

“For 17 years, the board of supervisors has unanimously supported (this idea) every year, and sent resolutions to our legislative delegation,” Grennell said. “The school district has the power to levee taxes, and any time a board has the power to affect your taxes, they need to be elected by the people.”

The problem in the past has been that similar resolutions have not had the support of all the area’s elected officials, Grennell said.

“For this sort of thing to pass the legislature, it usually has to be unanimous,” he said.

Natchez City Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the city board recently adopted a similar motion, and asked if the city and county governments could arrange a meeting with the area’s legislative delegation to show their support for the change.

Mathis also suggested getting business and other civic leaders to attend the meeting.

“The schools affect what businesses we can bring into Natchez,” she said. “If we bring in the Chamber of Commerce, Natchez Inc. and major Natchez bankers, if the community brings in all of those and that delegation looks around and sees it, we can get it done. You are not dealing with one particular entity, you are dealing with the entire town.”

Members of the NASD board are appointed by the board of aldermen and the board of supervisors, but the school district’s administration operates independently of the city and county.

In other news, the supervisors met in executive session with Adams County Sheriff Chuck Mayfield, judges Forrest “Al” Johnson and Lillie Blackmon Sanders and representatives of the Benchmark group.

Benchmark conducted a survey of the county jail at the sheriff’s behest earlier this year to assess if the jail on State Street should be replaced or otherwise upgraded.

The session was in executive session because it included discussions of the jail’s security setups, board attorney Scott Slover said.

No action was taken following the executive session.