Bay-Waveland School Board member criticizes 'politics'
By Geoff Belcher
Feb 10, 2015, 19:09
Newly-elected Bay-Waveland School District Board of Trustees member on Monday took Superintendent Rebecca Ladner to task during the board's public meeting for what he deemed improper political involvement.
"As most of you may know, our superintendent was recently involved in the rebuttal to the governor's State of the State address," Bell read to fellow board members from a prepared statement. "I am personally upset with our superintendent's involvement in this political partisan production. Instead of the usual live (Democratic) rebuttal on the house floor, they employed a video production unlike any I have ever seen."
Ladner took part in the rebuttal at the request of state Rep. David Baria, who had drafted legislation for the state to fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Eduction Program (MAEP) that was shot down by the House's Republican leadership. Ladner had received permission from the board to participate in the video as a private citizen, not representing the school district.
"Instead of her remarks focusing on educational issues like we were led to believe they would, and which we the board of trustees approved," Bell said, "her comments ran the political spectrum of state issues – government accountability, unpaid and under-paid workers, corruption, unemployment, medical care, hospitals and crumbling infrastructure.
"The involvement of our superintendent in this political boondoggle is, in my mind, a violation of school board policy."
Bell said that while he appreciated Ladner's First Amendment rights, he disapproved of her expressing her opinions in her position as district superintendent.
Both board President Dr. Sherry Ponder and board member Maurice Singleton spoke in Ladner's defense.
"I commend Dr. Ladner for her willingness to support public education," Singleton said.
"I appreciate your exercising your First Amendment right," Ponder told Bell. "As you stated, you found the comments of Dr. Ladner unrepresentative of this community. I find your comments unrepresentative of this board.
"Dr. Ladner's statement was an effort to defend public education, in a statewide climate of anti-public education and may we all go down for that battle. I request and urge this board to remain focused on what we are charged to do for our communities and that is to provide the very best education possible for its children. Stay the course."
Ron Thorp, president of the Hancock County Alliance for Good Government, attempted to address the issue during the board's public comment period, but Ponder asked that any public comments made stick solely to items on the meeting's agenda.
"The bipartisan, Democrat/Republican dialog may continue in our community, but it will not be played out in this board room."
"I guess we'll address it in the next election," Thorp said. In other action on Monday:
• Ladner announced the district's teachers of the year for the 2014-2015 school year (see a full list and photos in Saturday's edition of the Sea Coast Echo).
• Ladner also congratulated and honored the Bay High Steppers and their coach, teacher Priscilla Austin, for the team's unprecedented fourth consecutive state-wide victory in both divisions.
"This is the fourth year in a row that Bay High has been the only school out of all 152 in the state to win both divisions," Ladner said. In addition, she said, the High Steppers have won the "Kick" title for the past six years; and the "Jazz" title for the past five." All of the High Steppers are considered "Scholar Athletes," Ladner said, meaning they all maintain 3.0-or higher grade point averages.