School board OKs workforce development coalition

Published 4:59 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2021

NATCHEZ — The establishment of a new workforce development coalition between the City of Natchez, Adams County Board of Supervisors and Natchez Adams School District is moving forward.

The Natchez Adams School District on Tuesday unanimously approved a Memorandum of Understanding, agreeing to pay approximately $33,000 of starting up costs for the workforce development program.

This includes a third of the $65,000 salary and benefits for the program’s new director, Tuwanna Williams, who was hired by the City of Natchez last week.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the same MOU during their Monday meeting.

With all three entities involved, each agree to pay a third of the money needed to start up the program in its first year with approximately $100,000 altogether.

“This is a novel situation,” said Phillip West, a member of the Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees and a former Mayor of Natchez and Supervisor of Adams County. “This is an opportunity to connect everything and everybody together.”

West said other school systems have formed various kinds of community partnerships to provide specific educational opportunities to students. However, the conglomerative effort of the school board, city and county officials to address workforce development is a first and creates opportunities to fund and provide targeted, meaningful job training to both students and adults in the community.

If all bodes well, other cities, counties and school boards in the state may follow suit, he said.

By quickly vetting applicants and hiring Williams, officials plan for her to get right to work on federal grant applications with a January deadline.

“This decision had to be expedited as fast as we could to meet a grant deadline. Otherwise, we would have given the board more notice,” West said during Tuesday’s special called meeting.

West and board member Dianne Bunch, who were both a part of the search committee that also consisted of members of the city Board of Aldermen and Adams County Board of Supervisors, assured the remainder of the school board that Williams is the best choice for the job.

“The candidate appointed is excellent and hands down the best candidate,” Bunch said. She added Williams, a Natchez native and recruiter at Copiah-Lincoln Community College, has ample experience in grant writing.

While Williams will be considered a City of Natchez employee, the alliance between the three boards will contract with Natchez Inc., which will provide an office from which Williams will work. Chandler Russ, Natchez Inc. executive director, will provide day-to-day supervision while hire and fire authority over the workforce development director position will remain with all three boards.

Board Attorney Bruce Kuehnle said the agreement is subject to further approval by the Mississippi Development Authority and the Attorney General’s Office before it is finalized.