Should school board members be elected instead of appointed? - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Should school board members be elected instead of appointed?

BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) -

There is a move underway in Bay St. Louis to change the way some members of the Bay-Waveland School Board get their seats. Historically, the mayor of Bay St. Louis appoints three of the board members. The two representatives on the board from Waveland are elected to the position by the citizens. Some folks would like to see all five board members elected.

Board members set and over-see policies and procedures for nearly 2,000 students in the Bay-Waveland School District.

The Hancock County watchdog group Citizens For Good Government says there's not enough accountability from school board members who are appointed to the post. If they're elected to the board, they can be voted out of the position.

"I think we've got some very creditable qualified trustees that represent Bay St. Louis," said Bay St. Louis Mayor Les Fillingame. "It could be an attempt to change some of the authority that the mayor has always had. I know all of the mayors in the past, including myself, have been good stewards of that responsibility. We take it very, very seriously. We consider all of the good possibilities and seat the best person. And I'm more than willing to be completely accountable to the people I appoint to the school board."

Support for change is not likely to be high from the African American community. Many feel electing an African American to the board would be tough because of the population of blacks in the Bay.

"I'm looking around to cities were they elect their school board members. I'm going to take our sister city, and I have never seen a black member elected," said retired educator Joan Thomas.

Right now, two of the three appointee on the board are African American.

"I think there would have to be an overwhelming desire from the community to make the change. Then it would require a local private legislation to actually change the charter," Fillingame said. "Typically, those kinds of initiatives, something that significant, is born of a need for change. I, personally, don't see the need for change."

City leaders will discuss the pros and cons of changing the way school board members are seated at their next city council meeting, set for Tuesday, December 2 at 5:30pm.

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