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Two PRC school board posts up for election on Tuesday

Voters in Districts One and Two of the Pearl River County School District will cast votes for candidates in school board races in Tuesday’s General Election, while also voting in state, regional and other local races. Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m.

The District Two contest is probably the most watched since it features former Pearl River Central head football coach Jeremy Weir, the incumbent, against former board member Bonnie Sanders Johnson. Tuesday will be the second time they have faced off for the District Two seat.

In District One, challenger Rodney J. Dyess, who describes himself in his political ads as a “business owner,” will meet incumbent District One board member Sherwin Taylor, who works for Winn-Dixie, and is seeking his second six-year term.

The school board candidates will appear only on election ballots in school Districts One and Two.

Johnson was first appointed to the Pearl River County school board in November, 2009,  as an interim appointment by the school board until a special election could be held in  November, 2010, to fill the remaining term of Byron Stockstill, who resigned.

Weir ran against her in November, 2010, and won. When Johnson left office after Weir was sworn in during January 2011, Johnson had served 14 months in the seat.

Besides Johnson and Weir, there were two other candidates in the November, 2010, race, making a total of four seeking the post. On Tuesday, there are only two, Weir and Johnson.

Weir won the November, 2010, election by a wide margin, but Johnson said, after the loss, she probably would challenge Weir again, and she has.

Tuesday’s election is a regularly scheduled election. Whoever wins will be sworn in during January to a full six-year term in the District Two post. Terms on the school board here run for six years rather than the usual four.

Johnson works for Lockheed Martin at Stennis, and Weir is the assistant principal of the Hancock County middle school. After leaving Pearl River Central, he went to Stone High School as an assistant coach and then moved, as a school administrator, to Hancock. He is no longer coaching.

He is able to run for the PRC board because he lives in the district.

Johnson, in her announcement, pointed to her helping save taxpayers’ money by making the motion for a recall of the 2010-11 school budget, which was revamped to include cutting two mills off a proposed five-mill levy.

She also points to her helping adopt a policy allowing parents the right to have input into their child’s career path curriculum choices, and establishing performance accountability goals and objectives. She says she is also interested in improving students’ math and science skills.

“This experience has helped me understand the importance of working within budget and allocating resources to best educate our children,” she said.

Said Weir in his announcement, “I am running. . .because I believe that my experience in education and leadership skills can make a positive difference in the district. . .I will be a voice for the students, parents, and teachers of the district.”

He added, “Another issue that I will address is the lack of high level, honors and advanced placement classes at the high school. . .I will support vocational education, arts, music, ROTC and other extracurricular activities, but I will not support any tax increase to fund these activities. I will explore alternative ways to fund these programs. . .”

In the District One contest, Dyess said he will “not vote for any unnecessary spending or tax increases until we have evaluated all of our options.”

He added, “I will work to make sure we maintain an adequate number of teachers and they have all the necessary tools to educate our children. As the drug problems in our county continues to worsen, it’s more important than ever to provide a safe drug free environment for our children to learn without that distraction.”

One of his campaign ads also pledges to “not vote for any cuts to teachers.”

District One incumbent Taylor is seeking his second term. He was first elected to the District One post in November, 2005, and assumed office in January, 2006.

Says Taylor, “I have a solid record to stand on that shows I have done right and accomplished my own and the board’s goals while I have served my first term. We have not laid off or furloughed any teachers, like other districts have done, which shows that I and other members of the board have properly managed our budget.”

Taylor added, “We have achieved better accreditation levels and our test scores are up over the past two and a half years, so we are doing things right. I urge my constituents to continue this success by voting for me and re-electing me to a second term.”

Pearl River County school board is a true county system, although it does not serve Poplarville and Picayune, which are separate municipal systems. All five board members at PRC and the superintendent are elected. Only two on the Picayune five-member board are elected. All five on the Poplarville school board are appointed and don’t have to stand for election.

The board serves the large, mostly rural school district in the central portion of Pearl River County. The district has three campuses: Carriere, McNeill and Burgetown.

A full story on the Nov. 8 General Election and a sample ballot will be in Sunday’s Item.