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Three of five county school board seats on ballot

The Lincoln County school board will look different in January. 

It may look a lot different.

The newest member of the Lincoln County School District Board of Trustees, Brian Magee, was appointed to Educational District 3 last month; District 1 Trustee Kay Coon is retiring and giving way to unopposed candidate Justin Laird; and District 2 Trustee Johnny Hart and District 5 Trustee Joanna Posey are facing contested races in Tuesday’s election. 

The only board member with November off is District 4 trustee and board president Diane Gill, and if the mostly-Loyd Star voters deciding District 2 and 5 wake up with a mind for reform Tuesday, she may find herself the only member of the old board when it comes together for the first time in 2019.

Laird will assume the District 1 duties for the next six years as the only candidate to qualify for that race. Hart, an incumbent, is facing retired Loyd Star teacher Billy Vaughn for a six-year term. Posey, meanwhile, will defend her seat in a special election for a four-year term against physical therapist Tim Cunningham and retired Loyd Star teacher Lora Hedgepeth.

This year’s election schedule involves District 1, 2 and 5 because the school board is working to get back on the appropriate rotation after “missing” elections for Districts 3 and 4 in 2014, and District 5 in 2016. As a consequence, recently-resigned District 3 Trustee Ricky Welch served a seven-year term (2009-2016), and Districts 3 and 4 were held to five-year terms in the last election instead of six. Both will go on the ballot in 2019.

Posey — who was appointed after her father-in-law, Michael Posey, resigned — served out two years and will run for a four-year stint this year in an effort to balance that district’s schedule.

The school board sought guidance from the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office on the election schedule now being carried out, but the office issued an opinion on Feb. 5 this year in which it declined to endorse the plan.

“Our office cannot make the factual determination of whether a specific proposed plan is the best way to get the terms back in sequence as quickly as possible. Therefore, we must decline to approve any specific proposed plan,” the opinion reads. 

The AG’s office laid out the schedule — according to information provided by the board through its attorney, Jim Keith — which has Districts 1 and 2 on-track, requires make-good elections for Districts 3 and 4 in 2019 and the next District 5 election in 2022 (hence the special election for a four-year term in 2018).

But the AG’s office stops short of approval.

“You may wish to seek a court order or court approval of any plan designed to reestablish compliance with the above election schedule,” the opinion says in closing.

The district does not have court approval for the election cycle. In an Oct. 17 response to a public records request submitted by The Daily Leader, superintendent Mickey Myers said the district has no order from a court because “we were told we did not have to have a court order.” He does not say who made the recommendation to forego the attorney general’s suggestion.

Justin Laird

Johnny Hart

Billy Vaughn

Brian Magee

Diane Gill

Joanna Posey

Tim Cunningham

Lora Hedgepeth