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School Board Election Slated

By Bill ShortFlag City Logo

The Millington Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed an amended ordinance on final reading this week that authorizes a municipal school board and schedules its election.
Board members took the action Monday night during a special called meeting on a motion offered by Alderman Bethany Huffman and seconded by Alderman Chris Ford. The motion was passed by six affirmative votes, with Alderman Mike Caruthers absent.
The ordinance was passed on first reading at the board’s Aug. 5 regular monthly meeting and on second reading at an Aug. 12 special meeting.
It adds a Chapter 6 to Title 1 of the Municipal Code to establish the school board and submit the election of its members to Millington residents on Nov. 7.
The municipal school system is expected to become effective at the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year.
In a July 16 special referendum, 74 percent of the city’s residents who cast ballots indicated their willingness to meet the standards of adequacy and funding requirements set by the Tennessee Board of Education and state law for creation of the school system.
Earlier this year, the Tennessee General Assembly enacted Public Chapter 256, which authorized the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to pass an ordinance establishing a municipal board of education.
The Millington School Board will consist of seven members elected at large. They must be residents of the state and city for at least one year and qualified voters in Millington at least 18 years old at the time of their election.
They must have a high school diploma or Graduate Equivalency Diploma and have filed documentation with the Shelby County Election Commission providing satisfactory evidence that they meet all these requirements.
The board members will take office on Dec. 1, following certification of the results of the Nov. 7 election.
All elections for the city school board will be conducted on a non-partisan basis, and no member of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen will be eligible for election to it.
The initial terms of the school board members will vary in length. But all members subsequently elected, other than those who fill a vacancy, will serve four-year terms.
Members will be initially elected to the even-numbered positions 2, 4 and 6 for one-year terms, while those initially elected to the odd-numbered positions 1, 3, 5 and 7 will serve three-year terms.
All the school board members will be eligible for re-election.
Vacancies occurring on the school board will be filled by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen through appointment. An appointed member will serve until a successor is chosen in the next general election for which candidates have sufficient time to qualify under applicable law.
The original ordinance stated that the school board would consist of five members.
But during a public hearing conducted shortly before the final reading, Don Holsinger of 4385 Sykes Road said that, to function properly, the board will need a “special set of skills” in its members. He said he “strongly” believes that having seven members instead of five will give the board a better opportunity to obtain the skill sets necessary to make it a “success for all of us.”
A motion offered by Alderman Thomas McGhee and seconded by Alderman Frankie Dakin to amend the ordinance by increasing the number of board members to seven was passed by a 4-2 vote, with Ford and Huffman dissenting.
During discussion shortly before the vote, McGhee said he thinks having seven members will allow and encourage a “diversity of thought” on the board and maybe give it “more continuity.”
Citing Holsinger’s comments, Alderman Larry Dagen said that, with the city “jumping off into something brand-new,” he thinks it will benefit the board to have the two additional members.
“We can change this on down the line if we want to,” he noted. “But initially, I think seven would be very important to give us strength in numbers.”
Ford expressed concern about seven members trying to “keep in tune” while serving staggered terms. Citing the unified school district as an example, he said the larger the board is, the more problems are generated.
But noting that a lot of work will be “groundbreaking” at the beginning, McGhee said the board does not need everyone “singing the same song,” because then “somebody’s not necessary.”
“If we’re going to get the best product,” he said, “all of the ideas need to be considered. You don’t adopt them just because they’re offered, but because there’s an opportunity to get a different perspective on things.”
Noting that she has heard “an equal number” of residents request seven and five members, Huffman said the other municipalities have a larger group of people to draw from to find five qualified candidates.
With only seven candidates for seven school board positions last November, she said no one had any competition.
“A lot of citizens said they didn’t even vote,” she recalled, “because they felt like it was already decided. And they wanted to make sure they had a choice.”
As originally written, the ordinance stated that compensation for the school board members would be $1,500 a year. But during discussion, Alderman Hank Hawkins said that would make them the “least-compensated” among all the municipalities.
Dakin called $1,500 “kind of a slap in the face.”
“There’s no way that can even cover travel expenses,” he noted. “And I’d hate for that to be a disqualifier for a mom who wants to run for the school board, but who doesn’t have the funds that will allow her to do that.”
A motion offered by Huffman and seconded by Dakin to further amend the ordinance by setting the compensation at $2,400 for the board members and $3,000 for the board chairman was passed by six affirmative votes.
Potential candidates for the school board can begin picking up qualifying petitions next Monday at the Election Commission office. Completed petitions must be filed no later than noon on Sept. 26.

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