City to fill school board seat Tuesday

From left: Sumner Davis, Debra Prince and Lisa Long
Staff Writer

The Starkville Board of Aldermen will select a new member of the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees at its meeting Tuesday. 

Aldermen interviewed the three candidates, Sumner Davis, Lisa Long and Debra Prince at its last meeting on Sept. 5 and will make its final decision based on the interviews and the candidate's qualifications. The open seat is one of three on the school board appointed by city officials, with the remaining two elected by residents of Oktibbeha County. 

The board's choice for the seat will replace Anne Stricklin, who resigned in late June to join her husband, University of Florida Athletic Director Scott Stricklin in Gainesville, Florida. 

Sumner Davis is Department Head and governmental training specialist with the Mississippi State University Center for Government and Community Development. He has served in public office before, representing Ward 1 on the Starkville Board of Aldermen from 2001 to 2008. He holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MSU and has two daughters in the district. 

Davis said his background was suitable to help the district deal with budgeting issues and the trend of tighter education budgets at the state level. 

“My professional experience is working with budget issues, fiscal issues and ad valorem tax issues and promoting capital improvement, which are all things school districts deal with,” Davis said. 

Davis said his wife had served as Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president at his children’s schools and said he and his wife had been involved in many ways throughout their children’s time in school. 
“I felt like I could contribute in a positive way to our school district, and I wanted to offer myself again for public service,” Davis said. 

Long has lived in Starkville for 10 years, and is employed as a researcher at the MSU Social Science Research Center. Prior to MSU, Long worked both internationally and domestically with Save the Children and Catholic Relief Services. 

She has taught early childhood education at preschools in New York City and Ramallah, Palestine. Long holds a bachelor’s degree from Rhodes College and a master’s degree from Columbia University. She has one daughter at Henderson Ward Stewart Elementary and has served as PTO president in the past. 

“I am interested in serving our public schools by serving on the school board, because I am such a strong advocate and believer in public education and making a difference for our children,” Long said. “I would also be honored to represent all the children in our school district to the best of my ability.” 

Long said she supported making education in the district more personalized to the needs of individual students. She also spoke of the district’s diversity and the need to emphasize it. 

Prince is a Starkville native and a professor in the MSU College of Education. She is seeking a school board seat for the third time. Prior to working at MSU, she was an educator in the former Starkville School District. She holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from MSU and has one child at Armstrong Middle School, one grandchild at Sudduth Elementary and three children who have graduated from Starkville High School. 

Prince explained her reasons for putting her name in for the seat. 

“If I had to narrow it down into a single platform, it would be one of improving the achievement of all the students,” Prince said. “We have the means to do it. It’s just that we need the will to do it. Until we acknowledge the need for improvement, we won’t make the improvement.” 

In her interview with the aldermen, Prince spoke at length about an achievement gap in the district between high and low-income students and between Caucasian and African-American students.
She said achievement gaps of this kind were common, but the district had the potential to fill in the gap. 

“Our school district is a direct reflection of our school board,” Prince said. “You look at great-performing districts, you see a great school board, and I want to be part of a great school board.”

The candidate selected by the aldermen will be sworn in at the school board’s Oct. 10 meeting.