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franklin county times

Council faces July 1 school board deadline

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
June 16, 2001
The mayor and city council have two weeks to decide whether the next member of the Meridian School Board will come from the separate school district.
A new state law, passed in March, gives parents living in the Meridian Separate School District a choice. If the Meridian City Council doesn't appoint a school board member from their district, parents can choose to send their children to county schools.
The law takes effect July 1.
Failed appointment
The separate school district's non-representation on the Meridian School Board became an issue last year during two unsuccessful school bond referendums.
In response, Mayor John Robert Smith nominated separate school district resident Elaine Maust to the board. Her nomination was rejected by the Meridian City Council, 3-2.
Some council members said legal problems could arise from naming someone to the school board who is not a resident of the city. Others felt the area shouldn't hold one of the five seats when only a small percentage of city students live there.
Only 227 of the school district's 7,100 students live outside the city limits.
Not much time
Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith said doesn't know if the dispute can be settled by the July deadline because the council has not had the opportunity to screen the mayor's potential candidates.
Smith is out of town at Harvard University, studying government during a three-week sabbatical. He will not return until June 29, just two days before the law is scheduled to take affect.
Some city officials have hinted the mayor might call a special meeting of the council while he is in Massachusetts, in order to make nominations.
Loss of funding
If city officials do not make a move, they risk losing state funding if many of the 227 students opt to transfer to county schools. The state supplements education funds to the tune of about $1,800 per child.
Ward 4 Councilman Jesse E. Palmer Sr., who originally voted against Maust's appointment, said the loss of funding could be devastating to city schools since the state has already cut minimum program funding.
Although Palmer said the financial loss would likely play a role in his decision, he stopped short of saying he will approve a school board appointment for someone from the separate school district.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3226, or e-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.