Resigning school board leader: My efforts are ‘futile’

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, September 6, 2016

NATCHEZ — After eight years on the Natchez-Adams School District Board of Trustees, Benny Wright will resign effective Sept. 30 because he doesn’t agree with the direction of the current board, he said.

Wright said he remains committed to the growth and development of the children in the district, but with the current leadership on the board, he feels he cannot contribute.

“The new board members are not in my opinion making decisions that would move the district forward,” Wright said. “They are there for almost another five years. The next five years, approximately, are going to be moving in a direction in which they lead the district.”

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Wright was referring to trustees Phillip West, Amos James Jr. and Cynthia Smith. Wright said he believes they are discussing issues and making decisions prior to board meetings.

“It leaves no room for discussion, or anything else,” he said. “It was going to always be a three to two difference on every issue.

“That makes my efforts futile. It was an utter waste of time to attend meetings when ideas were discussed prior to the board meetings.”

The firing of former superintendent Frederick Hill earlier this year also has set the district back, Wright said.

Wright said if Hill was still in place, the Natchez Early College Academy would be on the Alcorn State University Natchez campus, which would give students better access to Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

Students in other districts are getting opportunities to graduate with both a high school degree and an associate degree, but Wright said that option is lost for Natchez-Adams students until a permanent superintendent is in place.

Hill was terminated in April after a federal jury’s decision that he violated the civil rights of former district principal Cindy Idom.

Wright said he also believes the loss of Hill will slow down the district’s ability to build new schools,

Wright said losing assistant superintendent Tanisha Smith would also be a problem. Wright said he attributes the successes beginning to crop up on the elementary level to her.

Tanisha Smith, who was also named in the federal jury’s civil rights decision, resigned after Hill was terminated.

“Her effort was largely in training the principals and teachers how to teach the curriculum that would permit our students to pass the test and move up, and it was just the beginning of what she would have done,” Wright said. “Other districts are glad to have her.”

Wright said not appealing the federal judge’s opinion of upholding the jury’s decision would also bring on more lawsuits. Wright said he doesn’t believe Hill violated Idom’s rights.

“‘He who is abused the easiest is abused the oftenest,’” Frederick Douglass, 1820,” Wright said. “If you don’t stand up to the playground bully, he’ll be back every day for more.”

Wright said he had no problem with NASD Interim Superintendent Fred Butcher as a person, but he said Butcher’s best days as an administrator are behind him.

“If I was going to enter the Daytona 500, I would not pick a 1951 Studebaker to put in the race,” he said. “With the new ideas out there and all the new technology, we must have a leader who is abreast of these changes.”

The district has not started a superintendent search, and Wright said appointing a superintendent is something that takes time.

Wright said he believes not having a permanent superintendent will have a negative impact on the children.

“We had a recommendation from one new board member to appoint someone from Adams County,” Wright said. “I have no problem with appointing someone from Adams County if he or she is the best candidate.

“It took us a year to find Dr. Hill. You can’t find the best qualified candidate unless you look, and we have declined to do that.”

Wright said he was grateful for the opportunity from the Natchez Board of Aldermen in allowing him to serve the district for the past eight years.

“Many thanks for the opportunity to help develop our future.”

The aldermen will appoint his replacement.