By Monique Harrison

Daily Journal

PONTOTOC – Pontotoc City Schools Superintendent Charles Harrison has been appointed to the nine-member Mississippi Board of Education.

Harrison, who was appointed by Gov. Kirk Fordice, will begin his nine-year term on June 30, pending confirmation by the state Senate Education Committee. He is replacing Petal’s Peggy Jacobus.

Only one of the nine slots on the board that establishes state education policy can be filled by an education administrator. A second position must be filled by a teacher, with the other seven openings being filled by noneducators. The noneducator positions are equally distributed, with one representative from each of the state’s Supreme Court districts.

The Scott County native said one of his top priorities as a member of the board will be to give successful school districts more freedom.

“I strongly feel that we have got to allow local districts more freedom in decision-making, particularly if they are operating at a high level,” the 46-year-old said. “We need to give communities and schools the freedom needed to make those schools the best they can be – to get out of their hair.”

Harrison believes the district he has been heading for the past 11 years is one of the ones that particularly needs more autonomy. Pontotoc City Schools has received a Level 5 – the highest state accreditation rating possible – for the past two years.

“At various times there have been problems with bureaucracy getting in the way,” he said. “I just think there is a more efficient, productive way to get things done. I want to help bring the state to that point.”

But Harrison said struggling districts should not enjoy the same level of freedom.

“We need to do even more to assist districts that are having problems,” he said. “They need help to succeed. That’s the only way we are going to do everything we can to enhance learning for students throughout the state – for all students.”

Harrison said he’d also like to see a reduction in state-mandated paperwork.

“There needs to be less paperwork and more educating,” he said. “This bureaucratic meddling in school districts isn’t helping us teach.”

In Pontotoc, Harrison spearheaded a drive for the passage of a $3.8 million bond issue last May.

“It was the most humbling experience,” said Harrison, who came to Pontotoc from Tunica County, where he served as assistant superintendent for 11 years. “There was a 94 percent approval rate. That’s something to be extremely proud of.”

The bond is being used to pay for construction of a new elementary school, which is currently under construction.

Test scores have also soared under Harrison’s leadership.

“I’m proud of our kids here,” he said. “They have consistently functioned at the highest level on any measure – on all things,” he said. “I’m very proud of that. It’s the result of good parents and a good community. I think the school contributes to that. It happens because the kids are working hard and teachers are working hard.”

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