Supervisors to interview school board nominees Tuesday

Published 12:41 am Monday, January 18, 2016

NATCHEZ — Members of the Adams County Board of Supervisors say they’re looking for a school board appointee who will look not just to the immediate future but also to the long-term.

The supervisors will interview five potential appointees to the school district’s board of trustees after its meeting Tuesday.

Those up for consideration include Clarena Jones, a retired teacher; Joey Mitchell, an administrator at Alcorn State University; Nichelle Payne, a county resident who works in the Concordia Parish school district; Barney Schoby Jr., a ranger with the National Park Service who has a master’s degree in education; and Phillip West, the attorney who is a former supervisor, state representative and Natchez mayor.

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Members of the board of supervisors, which appoints two of the five school board trustees, submitted the nominees at their meeting earlier this month. A sixth nominee, Jerry Ford, withdrew his name from consideration.

The new appointee will take the place of Tim Blalock, who served as the school board president and was often the object of the supervisors’ ire when he met them to discuss the district’s progress. Blalock’s term ends in February.

Supervisors’ President Mike Lazarus said he is looking for someone who can build back the community’s confidence in the schools.

“For the schools to move forward, they will eventually have to replace those buildings, and you are going to have to ask the taxpayers to foot the bill for the schools,” he said. “If you want my opinion, if you took it to a referendum now, it would fail miserably.

“You have got to get people to believe in the system to the point where they will buy in to building new schools.”

If people in the area had a positive outlook on the public schools, “We wouldn’t have 2,000 kids in private schools, black and white, who if their parents can find a dime to send them there, they do,” Lazarus said.

“We can’t draw young people to Natchez, because they can’t afford the tuition. That is an issue, and that is why our population is declining.”

Supervisor Calvin Butler echoed his sentiments, saying the appointee needs to be able to communicate effectively with members of the community.

“The person we put on there needs to be able to bridge the gap to the communication gap between the school system and the public,” he said. “When there is no communication, you can only presume that something isn’t being done right.”

Butler also said the appointee should be someone who can find ways to get the public at large involved “more than the PTA” and who is willing to adopt policies and procedures “that hold everybody accountable across the board.”

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said she’s looking for a candidate who can work well with a team, support group decisions and has an active knowledge of district policy, but will also support a diversity of viewpoints.

“I want someone who will have respect for all students and treat everybody fairly, be able to listen to what the parents have to say, to investigate and find out their needs,” she said.

“I will ask the different people, do they believe in change and are they willing to make change if they see something that is not going right? Will you continue to leave it that way or will you make a change?”

Hutchins said she would also examine to see if the potential nominees have a motive to be there other than the good of the district.

“I don’t want somebody to be there just for their reasons, but who is there for the sake of the kids,” she said.

Supervisor David Carter said he didn’t want to advertise openly his preferences, but he could in some ways frame what he was looking for by what he was not looking for.

“I am not looking for somebody to tell me what is wrong with the school system — because we already know that — but someone who can tell us what we can do to make it right, someone who can come in with a fresh slate of ideas,” Carter said. “I don’t want somebody who can tell us about the past, I want someone who can talk about the future.”

Supervisor Rickey Gray could not be reached by phone Sunday afternoon.