School board selection process is broken

Published 11:36 am Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Southampton County School Board Selection Commission is set to appoint two individuals to the expiring seats on the school board on Tuesday morning. It were up to The Tidewater News, however, it would be the vote of a county-wide majority that would do so instead.

In a typical election, the three candidates — vice chairman Jim Pope of Capron and Donna Rountree and Syretha Wright of Drewryville — would make a case for themselves to the residents of the county. They would share their ideas in a public setting, draw support from the community and find themselves tallying the votes of people who believe they would have the greatest impact on the school system.

But, under the current format, each was given roughly five minutes to speak at a hearing in front of only 15 people — including one of our reporters, superintendent Dr. Alvera J. Parrish, executive assistant Lavern Artis, a handful of school board members and the three men on the selection commission. The candidates each presented their cases and listened as a few of the aforementioned people spoke on their behalf. The whole process took about 30 minutes.

All three candidates are more than worthy of holding a position on the school board, and we believe that each would have their own significant influence on the direction of the school system in the next four years. However, the issue we have is that Southampton County Public Schools is one of only three districts in the state that entrusts a court-appointed selection commission. All others either changed to elected school boards after the General Assembly enacted legislation in 1992 or leave the appointment process up to the local governing body.

It’s a broken process; one that does not allow the people of Southampton County to choose the fate of their school district. It only makes sense for the selection of those in charges of all aspects of district management, from hiring administrators to negotiating contracts and creating budgets to determining curriculum, to fall upon the shoulders of county residents.

We will continue to encourage the leaders of Southampton County Public Schools to assess pros and cons of the selection process, as well ask that they be open to looking into an election format. It will only make the district better if they do.