School board search still on

Published 7:54 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

FRANKLIN—Citing a lack of consensus, the City Council voted Monday night to seek more nominations for three school board seats.

The council decided to readvertise for nominations for the school board’s Ward 1, Ward 2 and at-large seats, passing on seven people, including at-large incumbent David Benton, who had been nominated for the posts last month.

“There was an attempt to have consensus on candidates,” said Councilman Benny Burgess. “We did not have a consensus on any one candidate, so we elected to go back out.”

Competitive seats included the at-large seat, where Phyllis Crum and Dr. Peggy Scott were nominated in addition to Benton; Ward 1, where Audrey Lee and Nancy Parrish vied for the seat being vacated by Mary Eure; and Ward 2, where incumbent Robert Meredith and Tawanna Bernard had been nominated. A third nominee in Ward 2, Terry Godwin, withdrew from consideration last week.

“The City Council’s decision to re-open nominations for the contested School Board seats demands an explanation of their inability to choose from qualified candidates,” Crum said.

Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence, who had advocated going back to the drawing board, said she was satisfied with the council’s decision.

“We just didn’t see exactly what we were looking for to represent the children,” she said. “I think the citizens are very pleased. We are trying to make a change.”

Current School Board Chairman Bill Scarboro and Vice Chairman Mona Murphy were nominated without opposition for reappointment in Ward 6 and Ward 4, respectively. Both were reappointed to three-year terms unanimously.

Councilman Barry Cheatham made the motion to readvertise for nominations for the contested seats, which Mayor Jim Councill said he didn’t expect. Councill cast the only dissenting vote.

“We had already asked the public,” Councill said after the meeting. “We had qualified candidates, and I felt like we should’ve dealt with the ones we had one by one, and in the event one wasn’t filled, then we would go out for that one alone.”

Burgess said he hopes that the citizens understand the council’s reasons for going through the process again.

“I would hope that they would look at it as City Council is trying to work together to come up with qualified candidates that we all can get behind,” he said.

Cheatham echoed Burgess’ comments. He said that the council is trying to make the right decisions for the students.

“We need unity in this city, and it’s not about who, what, when or where, but it boils down to what’s best for the schools and the kids and that’s what the bottom line is and that’s what we look at,” Cheatham said.

The appointments were originally scheduled to take place during the council’s June 22 meeting but were put on hold because two council members were absent, according to Councill.

Sitting school board members, whose terms expired June 30, will continue to serve until they have been reappointed or a replacement has been named.

Nominees Lee and Parrish declined to comment when contacted Tuesday. Benton, Scott and Bernard could not be reached before press time.

New nominations will be accepted during a public hearing at 7 p.m. July 27 at City Hall.