Published Online: April 5, 2000
Published in Print: April 5, 2000, as State Journal

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Leading by example

If Mississippi school boards are going to set high standards for students, shouldn't their members be educated, too?

That's the question before the Senate education committee, which is considering a bill to require school board members to have high school diplomas or the equivalent.

While most of the members of the state's 152 local school boards do, indeed, hold sheepskins, some don't. And that doesn't seem fitting any longer in a state that is putting a big emphasis on literacy for its young people, many observers feel.

"This has been an issue for some period of time," said Steve Williams, a special assistant to state Superintendent Richard L. Thompson. "We just feel like it's important to have minimum qualifications for board members, based on the obvious responsibilities they have for the management and operations of school districts."

The state education department is backing the bill to require board members elected after July 1 to hold diplomas or the equivalent.

The measure also has the support of the Mississippi School Boards Association.


Jannette Adams, the president of the association and a school board member in the 5,400-student Columbus, Miss., district, said a state law passed a few years ago requires board members to undergo six hours of continuing education annually.

"It's important that we be educated," Ms. Adams said. Having a diploma, she said, would help ensure board members can read the training materials.

No firm figures exist on how many board members in Mississippi aren't high school graduates, she added, but it is believed to be "a small and dwindling number of people."

The new requirement sailed through the House education committee and faces no opposition in the Senate. A separate bill that would require all board members to be elected also is pending in the Senate; the state currently has a mix of elected and appointed boards.

—Ann Bradley

Vol. 19, Issue 30, Page 19

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