03/03/14 — Board to appoint new member

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Board to appoint new member

By Phyllis Moore and Steve Herring
Published in News on March 3, 2014 1:46 PM

The weekend passing of a seated school board member leaves the district in "new territory" in having to name a replacement.

Thelma Smith, who has represented District 3 since 1996, died on Saturday, leaving a vacant seat on the seven-member board.

"Nobody's even discussed it at this point," Jack Edwards, board attorney, said this morning. "It's, of course, up to (the school board) make the appointment."

This will be the first time the Board of Education will be able to replace one of its own members since the county and city school boards merged in 1991.

At that time, the school board gave up that power to Wayne County commissioners as part of the merger agreement.

Since then commissioners have made two appointments to the school board, once in 1997 and again in 2010.

The local legislative bill returning that authority to the school board was approved in June 2011.

Mrs. Smith, who was chairman at that time, said allowing the school board to fill its own vacancies will work better than the process that had been used before.

"We have been waiting to hear the good news," she said at that time. "That is great. That is wonderful. We are definitely very pleased with it. You know, we were the only school district in the state that did not have that authority.

"We just feel like that the people we think would do a good job in helping us carry forth our mission should be people we feel would work well with the school board, not someone that someone else suggests. They may have the same intentions that we have for filling a position or criteria. They may or may not, but we don't feel like they have our best interest at heart if it was done by an outside source."

Dr. Steven Taylor, schools superintendent, said today that the board will follow the procedure as laid out by the General Assembly.

According to the law, the person who is appointed must be a resident of District 3. Prior to filling the vacancy, the school board may ask for recommendations from commissioners.

If such a request is made, commissioners would have 30 days within which to respond. However, the final decision rests with the school board.

The person who is appointed would serve until the next general election, at which time the person could file for the primary.

Since the appointment comes after the filing period for the Nov. 4 general election has passed, the person would serve until the next general election in 2015.