By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Gov. Phil Bryant announced Monday his three appointments to the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board, the state’s newest agency.
The authorizing board, approved by the 2013 Legislature, does not officially begin operations until Sept. 1.
“We are raising the bar for all public schools, and that includes allowing families to choose the best possible education for their children,” Bryant said in a news release. “Charter schools will provide new opportunities in Mississippi, and the members of this authorizing board will play an important role in establishing successful public charter schools in our state.”
The governor has one appointment from each of the three Supreme Court districts. Bryant’s appointments to the board, are:
• Johnny Franklin of Bolton, representing the Central Supreme Court District. Franklin is a career educator, having worked in both public and private schools, most recently as the education adviser to then-Gov. Haley Barbour and later in the same capacity for Bryant. He was a teacher, coach and administrator in the Warren County School District, the first director of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and also worked in the state Department of Education.
• Krystal Cormack, a Clarksdale classroom instructor who has served as a lead teacher for the Barksdale Reading Institute, and before then served in several capacities for Teach For America, an organization that recruits high-achieving college students and trains them to teach in low-performing school districts. She represents the Northern District of the Supreme Court.
• Chris Wilson, a Laurel resident who is the managing partner of a real estate agency. He chaired the Jones County Economic Development Authority’s education task force for four years and initiated the Jones County Education Consortium, which according to the Bryant release was designed “to increase awareness about the importance of quality public education.” He represents the Southern Supreme Court District.
The board will set guidelines and approve applications for charter schools, which are publicly funded but freed from many of the guidelines and governance of traditional public schools. They agree to a charter outlining the goals they are to achieve.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves also will appoint three members to the authorizing board while the state superintendent of education will make one appointment.
Reeves spokeswoman Laura Hipp said the lieutenant governor “is reviewing his choices and will make a final decision soon.”
The state Board of Education has asked Lynn House, the interim state superintendent, to serve on the new board.
The charter board, which has the authority to hire an executive director and staff, will operate on 3 percent of the per pupil funding of charter school students from state and local funds. But the Legislature did not provide startup funds.
Forest Thigpen, president of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy and a vocal advocate for charter schools, said grants would be available from various foundations to help with startup costs. Thigpen said he does not believe the board would accept startup funds from groups interested in developing charter schools in Mississippi.
Senate Education Chair Gray Tollison, R-Oxford, said the goal is to begin the approval process within a year with the intent of having charter schools operating in Mississippi at the start of school in 2015.
Tollison praised Bryant’s appointments, especially that of Franklin.
“I think it will build a lot of confidence in the board having someone with his experience on it,” Tollison said.
The new board can approve schools in low-performing D and F districts. In A ,B and C districts, local school boards have veto authority. Up to 15 charter schools per year can be located in the state.
Board members must be confirmed by the Senate in 2014.