Two aldermen again took aim at the Starkville School Board Tuesday night.
In what could be considered “The response to the response,” Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas and Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins reacted to an open letter penned by School Board President Pickett Wilson after the two aldermen chastised the school board for a lack of transparency at the city board”s May 3 meeting.
With respect to a perceived lack of information regarding the resignation of former Superintendent Judy Couey, Wilson responded shortly after the aldermen”s May 3 meeting that, per an attorney general”s opinion and the advice of two attorneys, the school board was within its legal rights to withhold the details surrounding Couey”s departure.
“While the school board certainly understands the interest and attention surrounding Couey”s resignation, the school board is extremely sensitive to details regarding personnel as the law is clearly written to protect the privacy of employees, not the school board,” she wrote.
Perkins and Dumas acknowledged the school board acted legally, but were hardly satisfied with that explanation. Dumas criticized the lack of information as “oftentimes more damaging than the information itself” in his prepared statement and asserted “the legal justification does nothing to calm the nerves, doubt and fear of the parents of students in the Starkville School District.
“I doubt there has ever been a time where fewer people believed and trusted the leaders and direction of the Starkville Public School District.”
But Perkins was far more specific with his criticism.
“The lack of confidence in the leadership of the school board continues to undermine the credibility of the school district and the community as a whole,” said Perkins, reading from his own prepared statement. “In my opinion, the immediate resignation of the president from the school board would go far to setting right the perceived wrongs.”
He continued: “The president and the rest of the school board need to act immediately and decisively to dispel the criticism and thereby offer the school district the best opportunity to attract candidates for the position of superintendent who will be of a caliber able to meet the challenges of the position.”
Perkins again warned the school board to “refrain from micromanaging the day-to-day operations” of the school district and to resist “inject(ing) themselves into the daily administration and operations.”
Perkins went on to single out Wilson as being at “the center of the controversy” and, therefore, stated he would not support Wilson if she sought reappointment to the school board in 2012.
Dumas didn”t call for anyone”s resignation, but lamented the inability of the Board of Aldermen to make changes to the school board.
“Unfortunately, we, the Board of Aldermen, have very little authority concerning members of the school board once appointed. Unless a felony, gambling, the IRS or an ”unsound mind” is involved, we can”t be involved. Yes, I did look into what was meant by ”unsound mind.” But even though we can”t intervene, the school board can self-regulate and I ask, from both my official position as an alderman as well as my position as a proud parent, that they do self-regulate,” he said.
Dumas called on members of the school board, who will meet today at 3 p.m. for a special called meeting, to discuss the search process for Couey”s permanent replacement, to build “coalition and trust” through the process.
“Anything less will continue and only increase the divide between the school board and the people of the school district,” he said.
Jason Browne was previously a reporter for The Dispatch.