I attended the candidates forum at Hazlehurst Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly meeting last Tuesday up the street at Damascus Church. Although I’m not allowed to vote in the election here in Hazlehurst, I listened intently to the incumbents and candidates who were present, as they presented their ideas for governing.
Just like in Mr. Thrasher’s report below, the main topic was about the city school district. Dr. Rick Akin, Ward 5 Alderman, who is unopposed, said it frankly–the election/appointment of new school board members after the state has turned the district back over to local control will be the most important issue to tackle in the coming months (or years.) Whoever is elected to the aldermen’s seats on the city board will be almost directly responsible for the direction of the city schools for the next 5-10 years after the state is gone.
That’s why voters in Wards 1, 2 and 4 (Akin and Ward 3’s Shirley Sandifer are unopposed) in the city of Hazlehurst must examine each candidate–whether incumbent or challenger–with a fine tooth comb and decide which will help lead the city schools to a more stable and productive future.
You all have a few days to make your decision. Talk to each candidate and choose wisely. The future of Hazlehurst starts on May 7.
SCHOOL’S FAILURE TOPS AGENDA OF HAZLEHURST ALDERMEN CANDIDATES
Ward 2 incumbent Alderman Ron Sims and Ward 1 candidates Jessie Larry and Charles Magee wasted no time in introducing their political platform in the recent PK-8 PTA meeting held at the Hazlehurst Middle School gymnasium. An issue of major concern was the previous Hazlehurst school board members’ failure to provide administrative oversight of the district’s financial and academic affairs. All candidates in attendance unanimously agreed that a key trait of future school board members should be their genuine love for and success of all students enrolled in the Hazlehurst School District.
In addressing additional qualifications that future school board members should possess, Ward 2 incumbent Alderman Ron Sims expressed that each school board candidate “must be a sound, business-minded person who listens and understands…and who has the vested interest of children at heart.” He also stated that school board members are responsible for enacting policies that will set the superintendent up for success and that the goal of the future school leaders should not just be “to collect a paycheck.”
In 2008, media outlets all throughout Mississippi reported the state board of education’s declaration of a state of emergency in the Hazlehurst School District after an evaluation uncovered serious financial and academic issues. During the failed reign of the previous school board members, reports revealed an overwhelming decline in student performance and the apparent conflict between the school leaders and the school board. Evaluations also revealed that spending was “out of control”, and the district was incurring about two thousand dollars a month in overdraft fees.
Additional platform highlights included—but are not limited to—candidate Magee’s concerns regarding accountability, safer environments for senior citizens, active neighborhood watch programs, and the creation of an advisory board that would foster public relations between the future alderperson and the community in which he serves. Candidate Larry also raised concerns regarding better community relations, active neighborhood watch programs, and the desire to establish a coalition with area churches to create programs that will supplement the city schools’ after-school programs.
Ward 1 incumbent Frank (Andre) Jones was not present for the forum. Also, Ward 2 contender Bettie McDaniel was not in attendance due to a prior engagement, and Ward 2 contender Eddie Virgil was absent due to a personal bodily injury that occurred earlier in the day.