An elected school board?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

In light of the Selma Board of Education’s reported forced ouster of Superintendent Dr. James Carter, members of the Selma City Council are more insistent school board members should be accountable to the people they serve.

Carter, who has served as superintendent since 1990, spent his last week on the job under a cloud of rumors of whether he would be fired. City Council members called it “unprofessional.”

Email newsletter signup

The Selma BOE is currently advertising the position of Chief School Finance Officer, a job currently held by Bill Porter.

Councilman Cecil Williamson has repeatedly expressed his disapproval of school board members being appointed to serve in a volunteer capacity, then voting to pay themselves a $600 a month salary. School officials said some members are accepting the salary and some have declined. School board attorney James McNeill has requested an opinion from the Attorney General’s Office regarding the legalities.

“At the first Council meeting in April, I will introduce a resolution asking our legislative delegation to take steps to institute an elected school board of five members for the city – just as the (Dallas) county system has,” Williamson said. “It is time for the Selma City School Board to make its own decisions and be answerable to the people for what they do.”

Selma is governed by an Alabama constitutional law, which places the school board under the auspices of the City Council. A new bill passed in the legislature allows boards not governed by an Alabama constitutional law to pay themselves a stipend, city officials said.

Beginning in January 2006, six of the nine appointed school board members have been receiving the $600 monthly stipends. According to school officials Ben Givan, James Terry, Debra Howard, John Williams, Barbara Hiouas and Coley Chestnut have been receiving stipends. David Hagood, Dr. Anne Fitts and Dr. Kirit Chapatwala have declined receiving stipends, school officials said.

Selma City Council President George Evans, who once served as superintendent of the Dallas County Board of Education, said city officials are “outlining the procedures” for what the Council must do to have Selma City school board members elected.

“And, we’ll get feedback from the citizens,” Evans said.

Jean Martin, Council president pro tem, said she has given the matter much thought and feels an elected board would make members more accountable.

“People who help you get elected are going to pick up the phone and call you,” Martin said. “It’ll be interesting and there will be fair representation.”

Early discussions have centered around having five, single-member districts, which will have to be approved by the Legislature.

“We still have to have capable people, whether they’re elected or appointed,” said Councilman Johnnie Leashore.