WINONA – The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors is asking the Mississippi Legislature to change the make-up of the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School Board five members elected from the county’s supervisor districts.
Currently, the board is made up of three seats appointed by the Winona Board of Aldermen, and two seats from a northern district and southern district, created especially for the school board, that excludes the city limits of Winona.
Behind a District 3 Supervisor Willie Townsend, Jr., motion and a District 5 Supervisor Ronald White second, the board voted unanimously to send a letter to Representative Karl Oliver (R-Winona) requesting his assistance in amending the current consolidation legislation that dictates the make-up of the board.
The letter states, “The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors is requesting you, as State Representative, to prepare and file the appropriate documents with the Mississippi Legislature to amend MCA 37-4-104.4, which consolidated the Montgomery County School District and the Winona Separate School District into the Winona-Montgomery Consolidated School District, to provide that the five (5) member Board of Trustees shall be elected from five (5) school districts that will correspond to the five (5) Board of Supervisor electors districts. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.”
According to Board President Ron Wood, members of the board have been contacted by many people in the community regarding the representation on the board for those living outside the city limits of Winona, especially in relation to the district’s tax millage request from the county.
“We didn’t think [how the school board was composed] was right from day one,” Wood said. “The board of supervisors feel like there is no accountability from the school board.”
Wood said the board was told the school consolidation would save the taxpayers money, however, school taxes have increased for those living outside the city limits of Winona for past two years.
“The increase in taxes has got more people upset about the whole situation,” Wood said.
Townsend said supervisors have been concerned about the board make up for some time.
“It should have been done [as all elected seats] from the beginning,” Townsend said. “If it does get changed, it is better representation for the entire county.”
The Winona Board of Aldermen disagrees with the county’s stance on the school board’s make up. In Tuesday’s meeting of the board, aldermen voted to send their own letter to Oliver in support of the board having three appointed positions from the City of Winona.
“Eighty percent of the students in the district live in the City of Winona, while 20 percent live [outside the incorporated area],” Winona Mayor Jerry Flowers told aldermen Tuesday night.
In a 3-1 vote, the Winona Board of Aldermen authorized Flowers to send a letter to Oliver in opposition to the board of supervisors’ request to change the makeup of the school board.
“The City of Winona vehemently opposes such a change as it would not be a valid representation of the students and the school district,” the letter stated. “At last count, only twenty percent (20%) of the students that attend live in the county, while approximately 80 percent (80%) live within the city limits of Winona. Based on this statistic alone, it is obvious that changing the statute could misplace authority and greatly affect the majority of the students and families within our school district. Taking away the City of Winona’s ability to appoint three (3) members of the board is a reckless endeavor, and is tantamount to a school district run by a minority of the student population.”
Flowers told the board Tuesday night, that like the makeup of the Montgomery County Board of Supervisors, where no member is a resident of the City of Winona, the school board could very well be made up of no one representing the City of Winona.
“I am protecting the citizens of Winona,” Flowers said.
Alderwoman Sarah Minnieweather cast the lone dissenting vote to send the letter, stating she disagreed with the current makeup of the board.
Minnieweather explained that the school board consists of four white members and one black member, and she does not feel that is a far representation of the students of the district. When the board of aldermen voted to appoint the school board’s newest member, Minnieweather said the district did not properly advertise for applications from the public before submitting two names to the board for appointment.
The board voted 3-2 to appoint Tim Privitt to the board in January, with Minnieweather and Alderman Kelvin Winbush casting the dissenting votes. Winbush’s motion to appoint another candidate failed with a 2-3 vote.
Aldermen David Ware, Mickey Austin, and Travis Johnson voted to send the letter and requested they be allowed to sign the letter along with Flowers.