HomeOpinionOPINION: County government got too political with the school board appointment

OPINION: County government got too political with the school board appointment

Monday night’s County Commission vote – actually four of them – to appoint a new member of the Jackson-Madison County Schools Board, was puzzling to say the least.

Those of you who follow me on social media are familiar with the bingo boards I put together before some commission and school board meetings simply as a way for those who follow either legislative body (by the way, if you live in Madison County and don’t follow either legislative body, you should change that).

I’ll nearly fill it with realistic, logical options of things that could happen or words that could be spoken in the meeting.

But I’ll also throw a few outlandish things in there that I have no reason to think will actually happen, but every so often, they do happen.

Monday night was one of those nights. When referring to the school board appointment and the West Tennessee Healthcare board of trustees appointment, I just threw in there as filler “the meeting will end with one of the appointments somehow not being made.” I never thought that would happen. And then it did.

A lot of people walked away from the meeting frustrated, and that’s deservedly so.

For those who are still trying to catch up, here’s a a couple groups of people who were in the room Monday night that people should be frustrated with:

Mark Aday, Carl Alexander and Gary Tippett – These are the three Commissioners who voted for Brent Lay in the first two votes and then passed in the second two votes. I haven’t been given an on-the-record reason why they passed, but the optics from the media table just behind Tippett make it look like the three legitimately wanted Lay on the Board (and there’s nothing wrong with that per se, but more on him later). But then when it became obvious that he wasn’t going to get the appointment, then they weren’t voting for anyone.

Most of the other 20 Commissioners who are committed to a political party – Once they were down to the final two – Marcia Moss, a Republican, and Dwight Jones, a Democrat – the votes of the non-passers stayed pretty close to party lines. Every Democrat voted for Jones. Nearly every Republican voted for Moss. Do the members of the Commission expect those of us paying attention to really believe that not a single Democrat Commissioner thought something like “This Moss lady has worked all her adult life in education. Maybe we should consider putting her on the Board”? Or how about one of the Republicans saying something like this: “I know that Jones guy is a Democrat, but he’s a career Marine who fought for our country on multiple continents and performed some high-level tasks on some of those deployment. He’s way overqualified for the job, but he’s willing to lend his talents to the Board. Maybe we should give him a year up there.” I get that partisan politics has a place at the federal level of government, and even in state government. But nights like Monday are a good example of why those of us who oppose partisan local politics do so. When government gets partisan (at any level), that’s when it stops doing what citizens elected the officials to do – get stuff done and make stuff happen.

But look on the bright side, we get to do this all over again next month since the lack of appointment tabled this move. That’s in addition to appointing a new member to the Education Foundation Board to replace newly-elected Jackson City Council member Larry Lowrance. I’m sarcastically sure given the issues between EF Board President Tina Mercer and the Republican Commissioners in the dispute over sales tax revenue that was supposed to go to the EF in past years but didn’t, that will be a short and peaceful discussion.

Now a couple more things as we begin to look to the September meeting and the school board appointment Version 2.0, Tuesday morning, a little more than 12 hours after the vote, various school board committees were scheduled to have their monthly meetings throughout the morning (Wednesday morning too). Dwight Jones was at those meetings to learn more about what’s going on with the school board and the issues they’re facing. He and I were the only two non-committee members there. He said he’s going to apply again and is better prepared to go through this process again. He has no agenda other than wanting to help because he has offspring in the school system now. This isn’t an endorsement for him, but his commitment to the process and the school system is worth noting.

Brent Lay made some bold commitments Monday night. He said he’ll get Beech Bluff School back online. He said the same for Malesus. And he’ll get to work immediately on getting a school built in Huntersville because that school is needed with Blue Oval City coming. There’s nothing wrong with what he said. In fact, I’m sure if he got appointed and starting banging the Beech Bluff drum, he’d immediately be joined by Debbie Gaugh in that drum-banging (and that could be why Alexander, Aday and Tippett supported him since those schools are in their districts). But if he is appointed, he’s guaranteed until next August. Unless he talks four other Board members into telling Marlon King to drastically change his plans for the district, Beech Bluff isn’t coming back online without a major renovation similar to Jackson Central-Merry’s. And there’s already big plans for Malesus.

That school in Huntersville or Mercer is probably going to be needed. I’ve written that myself in a column in the last six months. But I’m not sure if in the next 12 months is the time for that construction (there are housing, population, business and education experts who have a better estimate of when it is needed). But the fact that he’s willing to make those claims at this juncture is concerning because if he were actually paying attention, he’d know that Malesus is back online and already has a new purpose to begin to be fulfilled next semester.

Let’s hope for a smoother process of this next time … or even if it’s not smoother, let’s at least get an appointment made.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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