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Aldermen pick Tomlinson for school board


Tim Pratt



The Starkville Board of Aldermen Tuesday appointed a seasoned educator and volunteer to fill the vacant seat on the Starkville School District''s board of trustees, but not before city officials exchanged contentious words on the selection.  


Aldermen voted 5-2 to appoint Susan Tomlinson to fill the board of trustees seat vacated by Dr. Walter Taylor, who retired earlier this month. Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn voted against Tomlinson''s appointment.  


Prior to the vote, Perkins made a motion to appoint Dr. Walter Conley, former superintendent of the Oktibbeha County School District, to fill Taylor''s seat, but the motion failed when aldermen Ben Carver, Eric Parker, Richard Corey and Jeremiah Dumas voted against Conley''s appointment. Ward 2 Alderwoman Sandra Sistrunk abstained from the vote on Conley.  


When Sistrunk nominated Tomlinson shortly thereafter, only Perkins and Vaughn voted against the appointment. Perkins cited Conley''s 20 years of experience as superintendent of the Oktibbeha County School District, his two years as assistant principal at Starkville High School, and the fact that Conley taught in the Starkville, Oktibbeha County and West Point school districts, as his reasons for the nomination.  


Neither Perkins nor Vaughn were pleased their fellow aldermen rejected Conley in favor of Tomlinson, who volunteered in the Starkville School District for 15 years, had two children pass through the SSD and another who is a current student, and has worked at Mississippi State University in the horticulture, floristry and agriculture fields.  


"I wish that we as a board could set the leadership and start moving this city forward by doing what I think is the right thing, and we need to, in my opinion, start to make decisions that reflect the best qualified applicants," Perkins said prior to the vote on Tomlinson. "We have a statement in our employment policy saying we want to have individuals who are the best, most qualified. If we can start doing that, we will see more progress, we can see more forward movement. If we start doing that, we will find a healthier situation, healthier relationships. I wish we could just start looking at the credentials to ensure that we make the right choices, the right decisions, about things that are going to be for the overall betterment (of the city) based on credentials." 


"I just want say to the citizens of Starkville and to the residents of the Starkville School District, we have an applicant who is best qualified, who is most qualified, a superintendent of 20 years, he''s retired, he''s available to get the job done, but, in my opinion, the board is fixing to vote in the affirmative for (Tomlinson) and it doesn''t matter what your qualifications are," he continued. "It doesn''t matter at all. This is a clear example that the qualifications do not matter." 


Vaughn also spoke out against Tomlinson in favor of Conley.  


"We''re here for the city of Starkville," Vaughn said. "That''s what we''re here for. That''s what our decision is supposed to be based on: the best qualified applicant. That''s what it''s supposed to be based on, but right now we see him, (yet) we are not making that decision." 


Vaughn went on to say he was "not impressed" with Tomlinson during the interview process. 


"How can you look over all this logic and wisdom?" Vaughn said of Conley. "How can we look over all this and vote the way we''re fixing to vote, and say we''re doing the right thing for the city of Starkville? How can we do that? How are we doing that for our constituents, the people that elected us and put us in these positions?" 


But Sistrunk defended her nomination of Tomlinson.  


"I will say that Ms. Tomlinson has a history of success in volunteer work and in building consensus among groups," Sistrunk said. "She has been an effective branch between lots of groups. She has a long, long commitment to the Starkville School District." 


Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas also felt Tomlinson was the best choice for the school board.  


"I do think credentials play an important part in this," Dumas said, then cited Tomlinson''s involvement in the school district and the community. Dumas also said he is "very confident" in Tomlinson''s ability to serve on the school board.  


After the meeting, Tomlinson said she was thrilled to be appointed for the five-year term. 


"I''m looking forward to it," she said. "I care about Starkville, I care about the kids and I care about the community. I will do my best to listen to input from my community and see how we can all come together to see how we can support Starkville and our public schools, raise our performance levels and make it the best education environment possible for our children to be successful." 


Tomlinson was unfazed by Perkins'' and Vaughn''s comments. 


"Well, everyone has their own opinion and all I can do is what I''ve been doing in 20 years working for the school district, and that is working the best I can," Tomlinson said. "I think I bring a fresh view to the school board and will work to help us all get along better and be successful."




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Reader Comments

Article Comment magnolia commented at 3/17/2010 12:11:00 PM:

You can always count on Perkins to cast the negative vote on everything and now Vaughn is following suit.


Article Comment enlightened commented at 3/17/2010 1:16:00 PM:

Perkins and his puppet, Vaughn, assert the most "qualified" candidate was not chosen. Credentials are NOT qualifications. One only has to look at Conley's tenure to see that he did NOT do a good job as Superinendant. When the State comes in and completely takes over a school district, that tells me the superindent who had been running it for the decade prior failed at his job. Perhaps Perkins and Vaughn should look less at the race of the applicant and look more at their track records.


Article Comment Leroy commented at 3/17/2010 9:51:00 PM:

Leroy says Mrs. T. is the bestest choice for the job. Leroy wonders if a stink is being stirred? Leroy read in the mornin paper that Alderman Perky asked the mayor to veto Mrs. T., and the Mayor said he "did not know if he would veto the appointment". Leroys says if the cat says he don't know if he's vetoin or not, then that means he is likely gonna do doing it. Leroy says if he does it, a LOT of cats are going to start playing race cards left and right in StarkVegas. Leroy hopes that don't happen, but says stupid is as stupid does.


Article Comment colfax commented at 3/18/2010 9:27:00 AM:

What is the current racial makeup percentage wise in the district, what is the racial makeup percentage wise of population in city, in county? Anybody know?


Article Comment BoardtownDawg commented at 3/18/2010 10:44:00 AM:

I'm hearing the same thing as Leroy regarding a pending veto. Some posts on Starkville-Now, too. I think a veto on this is political suicide- he will be overriden and this action will serve no purpose other than to create a larger racial divide, because his actions will be saying he thinks the Board chose the White candidate over the Black when the simple fact is Dr. Conley is a retired educator with a bad track record. Under Dr. Conley, the OC Schools were put under conservatorship by the State. Conley is not what we need. A bipartisan majority of the board see that. Perkins, puppet #1 Vaughn and apparently puppet #2 Wiseman do not.


Article Comment Starkvillian commented at 3/18/2010 11:30:00 AM:

I don't know about the city as a whole, but the make-up in the city schools is 65% black, 30% white, 5% other according to the 2008 report card. County schools are 92% black, 8% white.

I don't like that the board is not reflective of the racial make-up of the schools, but I also don't think we had a good minority candidate this round. Actually we did have some but one withdrew and the other got booted by the AG's decision.

I heard that Dr. Conley gave all the right answers in the interviews, but it is troublesome what he did with the county schools. However, if Starkville schools stay on their current path we'll be wards of the state soon too, so maybe the thought is that his expertise in that area will help...

If the vote is vetoed and the pool of candidates is reopened, then the veto would make sense. It would give an opportunity for some better minority candidates to throw their hats in the race. Call it racial division or whatever, but I think the board wanted to appoint a minority, they just didn't have a good one to choose from. In my opinion, it is important that the minority population of Starkville Schools have representation on the school board more in line with their make-up of the student population.


Article Comment BoardtownDawg commented at 3/18/2010 12:29:00 PM:

What is the gender make up of the schools? The report card does not list gender makeup of the schools, but odds are the ratio is close to 50/50 +/- 10%, but only one female is on the board. We shouldn't look at the demographics as much as we should look at who the BEST candidate is. A veto is essentially saying "White people and women need not apply". In the end one would think the board would override the veto rather than go back through the process again. But considering the kids don't know what they are doing, there is no telling what is about to happen.


Article Comment BoardtownDawg commented at 3/18/2010 2:40:00 PM:

Well, he did veto. A copy of the document is at the link below:

I think he will definitely be a "1 and Done" Mayor.


Article Comment Starkvillian commented at 3/18/2010 3:35:00 PM:

I wouldn't be so quick to discount the minority vote. The black population in Starkville is already pretty hot about those uniforms, which will hit their pockets the hardest. This appointment probably didn't help cool things, especially with the rumblings about the segregated after-prom party and Tomlinson's role there. Minorities compose a significant portion of the population and without that vote it would be hard to win any race in Starkville.

There hasn't been much Wiseman has done in his life without some future political goal or agenda in mind. I think there's plenty of indication that this is a well thought out move by him and maybe even the board.

I just feel bad for Mrs. Tomlinson in it all. She was a good candidate and has done a lot for Starkville Schools.


Article Comment BoardtownDawg commented at 3/18/2010 3:49:00 PM:


Not discounting the minority vote. What would minorities say if the situation were reversed and Wiseman were to say "Hey, we can't except a black candidate hear b/c of the racial composition of the board"? Discrimination is discrimination, plain and simple!

I can't speak to the after prom party you are alluding to, but I can say that there have been MANY black families who are in favor of uniforms.


Article Comment Starkvillian commented at 3/18/2010 4:19:00 PM:

"Not discounting the minority vote. What would minorities say if the situation were reversed and Wiseman were to say "Hey, we can't except a black candidate hear b/c of the racial composition of the board"?"

That's a good question. I think if the community were 65% white and yet the school board was 80% minority (which, I think we all know, isn't going to happen in MS anytime soon) then the white parents would be glad and they minority parents would be upset if the mayor vetoed a minority candidate. But, in that case the mayor probably wouldn't say that the minority candidate was being vetoed because of race, they'd say it was for lack of ability or experience or whatever and no one would question it but everyone would know why it happened. Race here in Mississippi is a sensitive subject. I'm not saying it's not discrimination, I'm just saying a lot of complicated factors come into play here.

And your hypothetical statement by Wiseman is cracking me up, but I'm assuming you made the spelling errors on purpose to emphasize his bad decision here.


Article Comment Woody commented at 3/18/2010 4:44:00 PM:

I supported this mayor but no more. This IS discrimination and unfair to Mrs. Tomlinson. This might look good on the mayor's resume, but will backfire with the reasonable people of Starkville.


Article Comment colfax commented at 3/18/2010 5:20:00 PM:

This is more about the facts and not about the Aldermen, School Board or even Mayor. The fact is that there are majority and minority races in the community. The minority (majority) race is poised to be in the drivers seat. The majority (now minority) must accept the change. The change they are facing is present from Laurel, Meridian, Macon, West Point, Okolona, Shannon and soon Tupelo. Starkville is just next on the list and now everyone is aware. The 3 year old stats someone quoted earlier are way out of line. There has been at least a 10% shift in the last 3 years. The next shift has started.


Article Comment boot johnson commented at 3/19/2010 8:57:00 AM:

starkville is one of the most racist city in America this is just another example of how it works.


Article Comment Are you serious? commented at 3/19/2010 1:39:00 PM:

Boot johnson, first of all racism is everywhere unfortunately, but to say Starkville is one of the most racist cities in America is just ridiculous and untrue. How exactly did you come to this conclusion?


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