Although the DeSoto County School District’s 2016-17 school year is half over, Thursday was a new beginning for the elected group of five that oversees the operations of Mississippi’s largest public school district.
That particular group had a change in makeup Thursday, as new District 2 board member Michele Henley of Southaven officially took her place on the panel for the start of her six-year term on the Board of Education.
Henley, who won election over two other challengers in the November general election, was sworn into office by Chancery Court Judge Percy Lynchard before Thursday’s regularly-scheduled board meeting, the first session of the new calendar year.
In addition, Milton Nichols, who was re-elected in November to his District 1 post with little challenge, was also sworn into office for another six-year term on the board.
Henley said she was looking forward to starting her new term, adding that oversight of the district’s finances and seeking more public input to district deliberations are among her first-term goals.
“We need to make sure the budget is balanced and we are taking care of our dollars that we are given, just being responsible with what we have,” Henley said. “I would like to have more participation from the people of DeSoto County, have more participation in the meetings and have more people coming to the meetings.”
Nichols said he was looking forward to working with Henley, who replaces long-time board member Steve Dodd.
Dodd retired from the board and did not seek re-election.
‘I think she’ll ask a lot of questions and she needs to as a new board member,” Nichols said about Henley. “I think she will be very capable.”
Supt. Cory Uselton expected a seamless transition and believes Henley will bring a lot to the school district’s governing body.
“She’s a very smart businessperson and has a lot of experience in the business world and I feel she will bring that expertise to our school board and continue to enhance it,” Uselton said.
Henley is a graduate of Horn Lake High School, Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Arts degree.
Henley is a former special needs educator but now is President and CEO of Team Mobile Industrial Cleaning Inc., an industrial cleaning company she and her husband have owned for the past 20 years.
Uselton added he was also excited to have Nichols return to the school board.
“He’s got a world of experience from being the mayor of Olive Branch,” Uselton said. “He brings the experience of being in charge of city operations and he is always able to add some insight and wisdom into situations that we may be facing.”
As part of Henley’s first board meeting, she was asked to declare how she would receive her school board compensation. Henley responded she would take a regular salary, which is $2,400 annually, over a per diem amount for each board meeting.
In Thursday’s school board meeting, members were introduced to this year’s Superintendent’s Youth Leadership Council, who represent each high school in DeSoto County Schools, heard from Carol Ingram, Director of Compliance and Accreditation, and also heard from instructor Jessica Ferguson about Hernando Middle School.
Two new board policies were adopted, including one noting that paperwork required of teachers and staff is to be limited to that which is directly related to the instructional program and that actions be taken to eliminate or reduce paperwork that is not considered essential.
The other board policy expanded on the district’s desire to encourage advocacy for students at all levels of the district’s educational facilities.
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.