Prince tapped for school board on third try

Debra Prince hugs a member of the audience in celebration of the Starkville Board of Aldermen appointing her to the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees. (Photo by Logan Kirkland, SDN.)
Staff Writer

The third time was the charm for Debra Prince.

Prince was picked to fill the empty seat on the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District Board of Trustees by the Starkville Board of Aldermen. Prince was chosen by a 6 to 0 roll call vote, with Ward 4 Alderman Jason Walker recused. She will fill the seat left vacant following the resignation of Anne Stricklin in late June.

Prince has twice been passed over in other school board appointments, once against Stricklin and once against current SOCSD Board secretary Melissa Luckett.

Prince was chosen over Sumner Davis and Lisa Long.

“I think it took the third time for the community to get engaged and see that I needed their support,” Prince said.

During public comments, 15 people spoke in support of Prince. Many cited her love of children, her passion for excellence and her expertise as an education professor and researcher.

“It means the world to me, because I’m not doing this for Debra,” Prince said. “It’s for our community. It’s for the children of our community. Anything that you do to be successful, you have to have support. Those same people that were speaking highly of me, I need them to stay with me. I need their continued support. I really want to see a difference.”

A 3-3 tie on a vote to appoint Davis was broken by Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill, who joined Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk, Ward 6 Alderman Roy A’ Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn in voting against Davis.

“It’s important for me to see more than one woman on that board,” Spruill said. “In this case, I am going to vote nay. It pains me greatly, because I consider Sumner Davis a friend. This is a very difficult decision for me. I say that because this is a vote that I thought would not come my way, but it obviously has and I have to do what I think is right.”

Prince told the SDN her first priority would be to get to know the other school board members.

“I’m there to work to make the district the best that it can be,” Prince said.

Prince also plans to work on closing an achievement gap in the district between high-income and low-income and Caucasian and African-American students.

“It entails a lot of things,” Prince said. “It entails more community involvement in the school district. We have to get just as excited about academics as we do athletics. We have to bring in and welcome in everybody in the community, all segments of the community.”

The boardroom erupted into cheers following the motion to appoint Prince.

Prince is an alumna of Starkville High School and MSU. She is currently employed as an associate professor in the MSU College of Education. Prior to her current position, she taught for in the former Starkville School district and was an active member of the PTO.

She has one child currently enrolled at Armstrong Middle School and three adult children who graduated from SHS.

Prince will be sworn in at the Oct. 10 school board meeting.