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Mayor promises school board nominee from outside city

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
April 5, 2001
Facing the possible loss of Meridian Separate School District students to Lauderdale County, Mayor John Robert Smith said Wednesday he will nominate a representative who lives outside the city limits to the city school board.
A vacancy on the board opened Monday when Board President James Vance's term came to an end. Vance will continue to serve until a replacement is named.
Smith's move comes after Gov. Ronnie Musgrove signed a bill into law last month allowing separate school district residents to choose whether their children attend Meridian or Lauderdale County schools, if they have no representation on the city board.
Legislators, who passed the bill overwhelmingly, said it was designed to encourage Smith and city council members to give the district's residents a voice in the board's decisions. Because they live outside the city limits but inside the city school district, they can't vote for mayor and city councilmen, who in turn appoint school board members.
Smith attempted last year to place a separate district resident on the board when he nominated Elaine Maust. Maust was eventually rejected by a 3-2 vote of the city council. Some council members felt legal problems might stem from having someone on the board who isn't a resident of the city. Others felt the area shouldn't have a one-fifth representation on the board since only a small percentage of students live in the separate district.
Only 227 of the school district's 7,100 students live outside the city limits.
City officials said they fear the loss of state education funding about $1,800 per child if the students transfer to county schools. The loss of state funding coupled with a potential loss of some ad valorem revenues could mean a total loss of $844,000 for the school system.
Although Smith said he had someone in mind for the board position, he declined to identify the person or give other details.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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