By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – Dr. Charles Harrison of Pontotoc, who says he has “an absolute commitment to children,” was confirmed Thursday by the Mississippi Senate as a member of the state Board of Education.

Harrison is superintendent of the Pontotoc City School System. Under his leadership, the school system has obtained Level 5, which is the highest accreditation standard awarded by the state Department of Education, for the past three years. Pontotoc was the only Level 5 district this past year.

State Sen. Nickey Browning, who represents the city of Pontotoc in the state Legislature, attributed the school district’s success to the fact that Harrison is so well liked by the people in the district. That respect translates into everyone trying hard to make the system as good as it can be.

“He is such a down-to-earth-type person,” Browning said. “He is the type person you can really talk to. People respect him for that.”

Harrison was one of two people nominated this year to the Board of Education by Gov. Kirk Fordice. The state Senate must confirm or reject the nominees.

The Senate approved of Harrison with only state Sen. Hob Bryan, D-Amory, dissenting. Fordice’s other appointment, Dr. Rick Cavett, a Jackson pathologist, had more opposition. Nine members of the 52-member Senate voted against him.

The Senate also approved the reappointment of Charlie Deaton of Greenwood to the state Board of Education. Deaton, a former member of the House of Representatives and current chairman of the state Board of Education, was appointed by House Speaker Tim Ford, D-Tupelo.

The governor, lieutenant governor and speaker all have appointments to the nine-member board. The terms last nine years. The board serves as the policy-making body for the state Department of Education.

Harrison, who has been superintendent in Pontotoc for 11 years, said he looks forward to serving on the board.

“An absolute commitment to children is probably the most important thing I will bring to the board,” said the 46-year-old Harrison, who came to Pontotoc from Tunica County where he had served as an assistant superintendent for 11 years. “I have a strong belief that we can do significantly better. We owe our very best effort to our children.”

Harrison said he will be pushing for change to make the state’s educational system better.

“Obviously, we need to do a better job of assisting our Level 1 and Level 2 schools,” said Harrison, referring to poor performing districts.

Harrison will be the only school administrator on the board. One teacher also is on the board. Cavett and Deaton, who both also were confirmed Thursday, will be among the seven non-educators on the board.

There was no opposition to Deaton, but Cavett’s nomination barely got out of the Senate Education Committee.

During his confirmation, Cavett criticized the public education system and said the state should study such issues as a voucher system. Under a voucher system, tax money would follow students to public or private schools.

Cavett will fill the unexpired term of Brad Pigott, who resigned when he was appointed U.S. attorney for the Southern District in December 1994. Cavett’s term will end in June of 1998. Harrison’s new term and Deaton’s second term will begin in June and run nine years.

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