Vying for a spot on the Oktibbeha County School District Board of Trustees as the member at-large is Melvin Harris.
Harris, who is running against current board member Yvette Rice, is an Oktibbeha County native with two grandchildren who attend East Oktibbeha County Elementary.
He is a graduate of Starkville High School and opted for a career in the Air Force rather than attending college. He retired as a member of the military reserve and served in Operation Desert Storm.
Though not a college graduate, Harris received extensive military training, which has influenced him to teach his children that an education is invaluable.
“I always feel like you can’t get enough education,” he added.
Harris got the notion to run for the board position after seeing board members come into his grandchildren’s school with what he described as the wrong attitude.
“I sit back and watch the school board members come into the school, and I always felt they were too hard on the teachers. They come in with the wrong attitude towards the teachers,” Harris explained. “They show the wrong impression to the teachers.”
Harris said he is a big believer in showing teacher appreciation since they are the ones “working hard” to education the children.
“I feel, as long as you treat the teachers right, the kids will be fine,” he explained.
Harris is a retired long-time employee of Babcock and Wilcox and is a frequent volunteer at EOCES due to the extra time on his hands.
“I was awarded Parent of the Year in 2009 and 2010,” he explained. “I’m always up there doing things for the kids. I really care about the kids.”
Another reason he hopes to join the school board is that he will make himself available to the schools in the district as his retirement allows him the time to give of himself, Harris said.
“I’m already there in the school doing whatever I need to help the school,” Harris said. “Any need they have, I try to participate.”
Though a lot of community focus is on the state test scores, Harris doesn’t feel that is the biggest issue facing the school district.
“I know the test scores this past time aren’t where the are supposed to be, but they are moving forward,” he said. “The teachers are doing a wonderful job. I feel just as long as the teachers keep doing what they are doing, the children will be fine.”
Harris is so confident in the county teachers that he believes the students will test proficient or above on the state test by 2014, which is the goal set forth by the Mississippi Dept. of Education.
Rather than dwelling on the negative, Harris hopes that people will understand the positive things about the OCSD.
“People pass by and see that (EOCES) doesn’t have nice playground equipment, but they have the same things inside as the city schools have,” Harris explained. “They have computers in every classroom, and I don’t see anything that is beyond their potential.”
Harris’ main goal for the district is to give the children the proper education, he said.
“My goal is to focus on the kids to continue to give them a proper education,” he said. “And whenever schools need something done, I would make sure it was done in a proper manner.”
Harris also hopes to increase parental involvement in the district.
“I hope to come up with some strategy to get parents more involved, and it will take that to get this district where it needs to be,” he said. “I hope people understand it is all about the children, and I have proven over and over again how I feel about the kids.”