Outgoing Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees President Jenny Turner’s seat is expected to be filled by a Mississippi State University-affiliated resident Tuesday.
Melissa Luckett, a project coordinator with the university’s Research Curriculum Unit, and Debra Prince, an associate professor with the MSU Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Foundations, submitted application letters to the city, a documents request shows.
A third applicant — Brig. Gen. Samuel Thomas Nichols — could not be verified as “a resident and qualified elector,” a supporting document for Tuesday’s agenda states.
Starkville aldermen are scheduled to interview eligible candidates before making an appointment.
Earlier this month, Turner announced her intention to step away from the school board after serving a five-year term. The new appointment’s term begins in March and concludes in 2022.
The City Hall meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m.
In her application letter, Luckett said her family’s decision to enroll their children in the public school system “also came with an obligation to serve others.”
She has volunteered in the district for about a decade, and that timeframe includes stints as Sudduth Elementary School’s parent-teacher organization’s co-president and Armstrong Middle School’s PTO president.
“With a background in public policy and administration, I recognize that a quality public education is essential for a thriving community. Many of society’s ailments can be addressed with access to a good education. Whether the issue is crime, health care or poverty — somehow a link can be made to education or a lack, thereof,” she said in her application letter. “Therefore, I place tremendous value on any role to serve our children — one in which I am ready and willing to accept now.”
Luckett’s application included a letter of support from fellow RCU project coordinator Judy Middleton, who said her “track record of service … demonstrates her commitment to quality education.”
Luckett was one of many MSU-affiliated residents who supported SOCSD Trustee Anne Stricklin’s 2016 appointment to the school board.
She previously worked as a project coordinator for the city and holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in public policy and administration from MSU.
Prince, a 1981 graduate of Starkville High School, previously applied for the school board seat that eventually went to Stricklin.
Her application letter states she has 13 years of public school teaching experience, which includes a stint as a district faculty member, and has worked for at the university for almost two decades.
As a researcher, she has focused on “the effects of poverty on the well-being and educational outcomes for children,” her letter states.
“For as long as I can remember, the former Starkville School District has been an excellent school district in terms of academics, athletics and extracurricular activities for some of its students. However, the most recent school rating of a ‘C,’ coupled with the number of students who … achieve the highest academic standards and receive prestigious scholarships, is indicative of the different experiences children have in the district,” she said in her letter. “As a community, we must do more to ensure that all of our students have the benefit of an excellent school experience.”
Prince’s application includes six letters of support, including one from fellow department associate professor Kay Brocato, who wrote Prince’s appointment would “have a profound impact on the teaching and learning children, teachers, administrators, staff, community members and fellow school board members are provided.”
Prince holds three degrees — bachelor’s and master’s degrees in special education and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction — from MSU.
She also has served as an executive board member of the Boys and Girls Club of the Golden Triangle and has volunteered her time in the former Oktibbeha County School District, SSD and SOCSD.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch