CATEGORY: Legislature



By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Gov. Kirk Fordice’s two choices for vacant posts on the state Board of Education lack one hurdle in the nomination process.

Dr. Charles Harrison, superintendent of the Pontotoc City School District, and Dr. Rick Cavett, a Jackson pathologist, both were confirmed Tuesday by the Senate Education Committee. The full Senate is expected to take up their nominations before the week is up.

If confirmed, they will assume seats on the nine-member state Board of Education. Harrison’s term, which would run for nine years, will begin in June. Cavett’s term would begin immediately since he is replacing Brad Pigott, who resigned when he was appointed U.S. attorney in December 1994.

In the Senate Education Committee, Harrison was approved with only one dissenting vote. The vote on Cavett, on the other hand, was closer. It was deadlocked 4-4, and Education Committee Chairman Grey Ferris, D-Vicksburg, voted to break the tie.

Harrison has been superintendent of the Pontotoc City School System for the past 11 years. It is the only system in the state this year with a Level 5 accreditation, which is the highest awarded by the state Board of Education.

“He (Harrison) has had very impressive terms as superintendent in both Tunica County and Pontotoc,” Ferris said. “He brings a breadth of experience to public education.”

Legitimate concerns

But Ferris admitted “there were legitimate” concerns about Cavett’s nomination. He said Cavett’s testimony last week before the Senate Education Committee indicated he had ideas about public education “that are not grounded in logic.

During his testimony to the committee, Cavett suggested the state should study a voucher system “to defray the cost of tuition at another school – public or private.” He was generally critical of the state’s educational system.

Ferris said he and others supported Cavett because of “his intellect” and ability. As he learns more about the successes and failures of the state’s educational system, Ferris said he believes Cavett would become a credible member of the state Board of Education.

The board is the policy-making arm of the state Department of Education and its superintendent, Dr. Tom Burnham.

Harrison would be the only school administrator on the board. Cavett would be one of seven non-education members. A school teacher also is a member of the board.

College Board nominees

While Fordice’s choices for the Board of Education are advancing in the nomination process, his four nominees to the state College Board have been bogged down for a week.

The four, including Hassell Franklin of Houston, had confirmation hearings last week before a subcommittee of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee. The subcommittee tabled action on the nominations.

The general consensus of the subcommittee was that the four were good candidates, but lacked diversity. All are white males.

“People of the state expect that (diversity) in 1996,” said Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, who is chairman of the Universities and Colleges Committee. “In fact, I am told one of the members made that comment himself during his testimony. People want to go forward together.”

Frazier would not predict what would happen to the nominees. But he did say members of the subcommittee “are hopeful” they can resolve the issue before the end of the legislative session. Members hope to go home on Friday with no plans to convene again this year unless to try to override any gubernatorial vetoes next week.

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