Hed: Committee expected to vote on Board of Education nominees
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – The Senate Education Committee is expected to vote today on the confirmation of two nominees to the nine-member state Board of Education.
One of those nominees – Dr. Charles Harrison of Pontotoc – is not expected to have any trouble being confirmed by the 15-member committee. The other nominee – Dr. Rick Cavett of Jackson – is expected to have a more difficult time, based on the scrutiny he came under during Thursday’s meeting.
Both were nominated to the board in February by Gov. Kirk Fordice.
Harrison, who has been superintendent of the Pontotoc City School District for 11 years, was praised for his leadership of the system. It has been ranked a Level 5 – the highest level available for a Mississippi school – for the past two years. Pontotoc was the only school to be accredited as a Level 5 this year.
When a senator asked if the school system achieved the ranking in spite of its diverse student enrollment, Harrison said, “I think we do it because of that, not in spite of it.”
During the committee meeting, Harrison was praised by both Sen. Nickey Browning, D-Ecru, and Rep. Ted Foster, R-Pontotoc.
“Education is one of the best economic development tools we have under the leadership of Dr. Harrison,” Foster said.
If appointed to the state Board of Education, Harrison said he will be a voice in favor of giving top-performing districts more freedom from state regulations and of lessening paperwork.
He also spoke of the importance of making sure all of Mississippi’s children get an adequate education.
“Anybody who tells me all of public education is terrible is not looking at Pontotoc and several other districts,” Harrison said. “Anybody who tells you all is good is not looking at some others.”
While Harrison was praised by most members of the committee, Cavett, a Jackson pathologist, came under intense questioning. He said officials should study the possibility of allowing vouchers to be used in the state.
He said the voucher would be given by the state “to defray the cost of tuition at another school – public or private.”
He did not say the voucher system would work, but that it should be studied.
Cavett writes a regular column in the Mississippi Conservative magazine.
If the nominees are confirmed by the committee, they then will be voted on by the full Senate.
Cavett’s nomination is to fill the unexpired term of Brad Pigott, who resigned when he was appointed U.S. attorney in December 1994. The school board term ends on June 30, 1998.
Harrison’s term would run nine years, starting in June. The board is set up to have a school administrator and a teacher on it. The seven other members are noneducators.
The state Board of Education sets policy for the state Department of Education.