Natchez leaders consider meeting with school board

Published 12:05 am Friday, June 5, 2015

NATCHEZ — In light of a recent move by the Adams County Board of Supervisors to ask for the resignation of Natchez-Adams School District Board President Tim Blalock, the city’s Board of Aldermen is considering meeting with city-appointed school board members.

The supervisors sought a meeting recently with its school board appointees because of concerns voiced by constituents over the high administrator turnover rate at Natchez High School, which has had three principals in three years.

Blalock and school board member Cynthia Smith were appointed to the board by the county.

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City-appointed school board members are Thelma Newsome, Benny Wright and Amos James.

“I’ve had some calls, and I’ve mentioned it to (alderman) Ricky Gray, saying that what happened suggests the possibility that we may need to call our appointees in,” said Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis. “I’m hoping the board will call in the appointees.”

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Carter Smith echoed Arceneaux-Mathis, and said meeting with city-appointed school board members would be beneficial.

“There have been improvements within the school system, but the public is concerned,” Smith said. “I agree that it would be beneficial to talk to our representation and see if they have any concerns about what’s going on at this time.”

Aldermen Dan Dillard, who represents Ward 6, and Mark Fortenbery, who represents Ward 5, also said calling in city-appointment members would be beneficial, considering the supervisors’ recent vote.

“I think it’s something we should consider, and I think it’s something we should do,” Dillard said.

Ward 2 Alderman Ricky Gray said the board of aldermen should not only meet with city-appointed board members, but should also consider making school board members elected officials instead of appointed.

“It’s taxation without representation. They need to be voted in (by the public) and held accountable,” Gray said. “We’ve been trying to get an elected school board for some time now.”

Gray also questioned the motives of some of the school board members.

“We have a lot of people unhappy with what’s going on,” Gray said. “Evidently, the ones who are serving have an ulterior motive, and I would sure love to know what it is.”

Natchez Mayor Butch Brown said Wednesday the board has not scheduled a meeting with city-appointed school board members.

“We’ve met with them before, and if the board sees fit, we’ll do it again,” Brown said.

School Board Attorney Scott Slover said Monday that school board positions are term appointments, and members cannot be removed except in cases of negligence, malfeasance or criminal activity.

Blalock’s term ends February 2016.

Blalock said Tuesday he has no plans to resign as school board president.

Attempts to reach Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields were unsuccessful. Fields was recently named the next principal of Natchez High School.