October 5, 2012 11:21:44 AM
Carmen K. Sisson - firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Jackson was named interim principal of West Lowndes High School Thursday during a special called board meeting at the Lowndes County School District's central office.
The position has been a source of dissension between board members since the retirement of West Lowndes High School Principal Cliff Reynolds in July.
Superintendent Lynn Wright recommended Jackson as interim principal at the beginning of the school year, but the board balked, naming him acting principal instead.
Jackson has served as assistant principal at the school for 19 years. As interim principal, he will receive a pay increase, though Wright could not say how much that will be. Jackson was paid his regular salary as an assistant principal while serving as acting principal.
During Thursday's meeting, Wright, along with board attorney Jeff Smith, argued that state code allows the county school superintendent to make administrative recommendations which the board can either approve or reject, with the caveat being that if they reject a recommendation, they must provide a reason.
Smith said he spoke with Jim Keith, attorney for the Mississippi School Boards Association, who told him the board could be held liable for refusing a recommendation without recording a reason in the board minutes.
Board member Jacqueline Gray, who has been outspoken about the issue, said the board should have advertised the position, formed a committee and conducted a proper search for the next leader of West Lowndes High School.
She protested revisiting the issue Thursday, saying Jackson was named acting principal and there was no reason to keep discussing the matter.
Wright then attempted to recommend Jackson as principal, but because the agenda stated he would recommend him as interim, he was forced by law to adhere to the agenda he had set.
He said time is critical, because an interim principal or principal must be in place by February or the district could risk losing its accreditation.
Board member Brian Clark made the motion to accept Wright's recommendation to name Jackson as interim principal, and board member Mike Gibson seconded the motion. It passed 3-2, with Clark, Gibson and board president Jane Kilgore voting for the measure, and Gray and board member Bobby Barksdale voting against it.
Wright said he recommended Jackson for the position because he feels like he will do a good job.
"I feel like he was the most qualified person," Wright said after the meeting. "He's well thought of by the faculty, staff, all of the employees and students. He cares a whole lot about that community and the success of those kids. He has some great ideas."
Jackson, who was not present for the meeting, seemed pleased to hear the news Thursday afternoon.
"It's just nice to get it settled," he said via telephone. "We need to get out of the state of debasing that we've been in. I'm just glad it's been resolved."
Jackson, who is white, sued the district for racial discrimination in July 2008 after he was passed up for a position as interim principal of West Lowndes Middle School. He was also turned down for a principal's job at West Lowndes Elementary School in 2005. Black principals were hired at both schools.
In Jackson's lawsuit, he alleged LCSD intentionally hires white principals for predominantly white schools in New Hope and Caledonia and hires black principals for the West Lowndes campuses, which are predominantly black.
The suit was settled in 2010, with all parties signing confidentiality agreements as part of the settlement.
Carmen K. Sisson is news editor at The Dispatch.