Elected school board?

Published 8:07 am Friday, July 17, 2009

FRANKLIN­—A Franklin School Board nominee who was among seven rejected by the City Council on Monday night says the city should consider changing to an elected school board.

“If consensus was the intent of the Council’s decision to pass over the School Board nominees, then maybe we should explore establishing a procedure for the constituents to elect School Board representatives rather than relying on City Council officials,” Dr. Peggy Scott wrote in an e-mail to The Tidewater News.

Scott, a Franklin minister, had been nominated for the school board’s at-large seat along with incumbent David Benton and Phyllis Crum.

The three were rejected, along with nominees in Wards 1 and 2, when the City Council voted 5-1 to accept new nominations for the three seats later this month.

Incumbents Bill Scarboro and Mona Murphy, the school board’s chairman and vice chairman, were unanimously reappointed to their seats in Ward 6 and Ward 4, respectively. Neither faced opposition.

Councilwoman Mary Hilliard said the council wanted “to avoid a 4-3 vote,” so it decided to start over in the search for Ward 1, Ward 2 and at-large nominees.

“At the time we couldn’t come to a consensus on any of the candidates,” she said. “It was a hard decision to make.”

Mayor Jim Councill was the only council member to oppose reopening the nominations. He said after the meeting that all of the candidates were qualified and should have been dealt with “one by one.”

Ward 2 incumbent Robert Meredith, who was among the nominees passed over, said he wasn’t surprised by the council’s actions because of comments made by Councilwoman Rosa Lawrence in advance of Monday’s meeting advocating restarting the process.

“I was personally a little disappointed, but I understand that they are looking at the big picture,” Meredith said.

While disappointed, Meredith said that this shows the City Council is taking the school board appointments very seriously.

“I understand that council is doing the best it can to have an effective school board, and I appreciate that process,” he said.

Meredith said he hadn’t decided whether he would accept another nomination to the board.

Scott, however, said she is open to the prospect.

“I remain committed to being a change agent within our community. A change agent is one who pursues and moves forward in the face of opposition, to make a difference wherever you can,” she wrote in an e-mail. “Should my name be entered again as a nominee, I will graciously accept it.”

Sitting School Board members, whose terms expired on June 30, will continue to serve until they have been reappointed or their replacements have been named.

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