August 15, 2019 10:53:24 AM
In 2015, Lowndes County voters approved a $44 million bond issue to build/upgrade facilities across the county school district.
More than $11 million of that built the Career Tech Center on Lehmberg Road, a campus meant to provide technical training for students in fields that would bolster their future employability and job security.
Unfortunately, LCSD Superintendent Lynn Wright seems to think the Career Tech Center should also provide job security for him.
Wright, who has been twice elected to four-year terms as superintendent, will see his final term end Dec. 31, when the post transitions to a board-appointed job. A nation-wide job search for a new superintendent began earlier this year, and Wright has applied. Like we do with every appointed position, we expect the board to select a candidate based on ability, not familiarity.
We have reason to be concerned that won't happen though. "(Board members) told me once that as long as test scores are good, I don't have anything to worry about (in being rehired as superintendent). I hope they remember that," Wright told The Dispatch this week.
Good ole boy politics apparently aren't enough to make Wright comfortable though. Wright has a Plan B: vocational technical director. He's more than happy to tell you about it, too. Not only did he tell The Dispatch on the record that he's essentially holding the position open for himself, there's no shortage of folks he's apparently told all over the county.
Here's how it works. Instead of interviewing any of the 34 candidates who applied for the job after former director Percy Lee left in the spring, Wright instead recommended appointing an interim director through December. (How convenient that the end of the interim position aligns perfectly with the end of Wright's time as elected superintendent.) Then, if Wright is replaced as superintendent, he'll apply for the vo-tech job and, in his mind, get it.
Not to be outdone, the school board has so far gone along with this plan, aside from vice president Brian Clark calling Wright out publicly during a special-call meeting Tuesday night.
All of this suggests a will from the county school district's leader to use tax-funded operations as a personal fiefdom, abusing his current authority to arrange a prime job for himself in the future. At best, this is ethically questionable. The Dispatch is today requesting an investigation into the matter by the Mississippi Department of Education.
A brand new $11 million operation being left to an interim while you ignore 34 applications is a disturbing violation of the public trust and a disservice to students. When the people voted to let the district borrow that money, they expected stable leadership that would enhance vocational training for students, not political maneuvering to help Wright ensure job security for himself.
The Career Tech Center, just like all school property and operations, is not private property these school leaders own. They are the citizens' facilities for which board members and the superintendent are appointed stewards.
This superintendent, and quite possibly most of the board, seem to have forgotten that.
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