Long Beach Mayor Vetoed School Board Appointment

The mayor of Long Beach has vetoed a controversial school board appointment.

As WLOX News reported earlier, the proposed appointment of Tim Pierce to the school board sparked questions about politics and racial diversity in that city. Pierce, a former alderman, was the only white candidate in a field that included three African Americans.

"This is the first veto I have rendered in over six and a half years," said Mayor Robert Bass, after making the veto official.

Mayor Bass says the aldermen missed an opportunity to appoint a qualified African American to the school board and make good on a resolution calling for more racial diversity in the school district.

"There was also a push to have the board, as well, encourage diversity in its appointment of school board members. That's essentially it. This time we had four candidates. Three African American," said Mayor Bass.

"I'm proud to be from Long Beach. But it's got to hurt to know that we're still divided," said Carolyn Stallings.

She's upset there hasn't been a black on the Long Beach school board in the past 20 years. Stallings serves as secretary of a citizens group lobbying for more African American teachers and representation on the school board.

"We have qualified applicants. And I feel they should be given a chance. Our children should be able to see that there is a black that they can go to. That's going to stand up for them," she said.

Controversy is nothing new with Long Beach school board appointments. In 1998, alderman Billy Skellie faced opposition from some fellow board members after voting for a school board appointment, even though his wife was a teacher in the school district. The state ethics commission later upheld Skellie's right to vote.

Just two years ago, alderman Allen Holder's vote to appoint his brother to the school board also drew some objections.  That vote was also ruled okay by the ethics commission.

"I really believe that the proper message to send to the community at large was rendered by my veto of this original appointment," said the mayor.

The vote to appoint Tim Pierce was 4-to-2 The board of aldermen needs five votes to override.

WLOX News has learned more about the educational requirements of the top two candidates for the school board position.

James Stubbs was the leading African American candidate. He has a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Alcorn State and a master's degree in Education from USM.

Tim Pierce is the man approved by the board of aldermen on a 4-to-2 vote. He has a bachelor's in Business Administration from USM Long Beach. He's also competed three master's level courses.

The board of aldermen will re-visit the school board issue at it's February 17th meeting.