Houston BOE weighing candidates for vacant seats

PERRY -- The remaining Houston County school board members have a rare chance to choose their colleagues, at least for the next few months.

The board will vote Tuesday on interim replacements for two seats vacated in July.

“That is kind of different,” said board member Rick Unruh.

Between the two vacant seats representing Districts 2 and 3, 17 people applied to join the board. Interim Chairman Fred Wilson said the volume and quality of the candidates would make the selection difficult but was confident the board would make its choices at Tuesday’s meeting.

“The numbers speak volumes as to the number of people interested in serving on the school board,” Wilson said. “It’s great to have that many.”

Post 2 was vacated by previous board Chairwoman Marianne Melnick, who moved to a different district. Nine people have their names in for consideration for that seat: Christie Drexler, Lori Johnson, Robert Jones, Christine Miner, Michael Paull, Andy Rodriquez, Jody Wayne, Sean Whildean and Jimmy Williams Jr.

Skip Dawkins left Post 3 to move to West Virginia. Eight people are interested in that spot: Michael Brashear, Dave Crockett, Josephine Davis, Kenneth Ezell, Marion Ford, Bobby Griffin, Robbin Jackson and Joseph Reed.

Unruh, who has been on the board for two years, said the primary goal was to find the most qualified candidates that were committed to the well-being of Houston County’s students.

“And then after you get that, someone who will mesh well with the board, someone who will continue the good relationships that we have,” he said.

Additionally, the selection process allows board members to bring more diversity to the table, Unruh said. Before Melnick and Dawkins departed, the seven-member board had two women, and Wilson remains the only black board member.

“We have an opportunity to help the board look more like the community,” he said.

About one-third of Houston County’s resident are black, with a similar percentage in the school system, while women make up 51 percent of the population.

Whoever is selected for the two seats will serve until a March 1 election. Whoever wins Post 2 in the March election will serve until 2018, but the Post 3 seat would be up for election again in May because that term expires in December 2016.

The board will also vote on a pair of proposals related to the district’s bus fleet at Tuesday’s meeting, set for 1 p.m. at the board office in Perry. The first would remove four 2009 model buses to be traded in for $128,000, as repairs on those buses have become too costly, Superintendent Mark Scott said.

If passed, that money would go toward purchasing three new Bluebird buses -- one powered by natural gas, one by diesel and a third by propane. In addition to financial concerns, Scott said the district would look at the emissions related to the three fuel options for future purchases.

With the trade-in from the surplus buses, the new vehicles would cost the district $244,685, a cost that would be covered by state funds and money budgeted for such a purchase.