The Mississippi Senate Education Committee meets to consider the nomination of Dr. Robert Taylor as State Superintendent (March 28, 2023)
The full Senate will now consider Dr. Robert Taylor’s nomination to lead Mississippi’s K-12 education system.
On Tuesday, the Mississippi Senate Education Committee held a meeting to discuss the nomination of Dr. Robert Taylor as the State Superintendent of Education. Despite concerns over the process by which Taylor was chosen, the Committee ultimately passed the nomination following discussion.
The nomination must now pass the full Senate for Dr. Taylor to be confirmed.
After conducting a national search, the State Board of Education (SBE) named Dr. Taylor Mississippi’s new State Superintendent of Education on November 21, 2022. Dr. Taylor, a 30-year veteran educator and deputy state superintendent for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, began his role in January 2023.
Last week, the nomination was stuck in the committee, and it was unclear if it would move forward.
During the committee hearing, State Senator Brice Wiggins (R) said he didn’t know where the vote is on this, but he personally is disgusted by how the search process went.
State Senator Hob Bryan (D) said he really does not understand the obsession with the process used by the State Board of Education. Bryan said SBE was set up with the purpose of promoting education in Mississippi, adding that he finds it perplexing for Wiggins to say the process was disgusting.
Senator Bryan named other nominations that have been confirmed and said he doesn’t remember there being concerns about their processes. He explained that the objections being raised by this particular confirmation and the process seems to be a “hollow” concern and only focused on this one individual’s nomination.
Senator Bryan continued by saying if there were substantive objections to the individual, then those should have been articulated and discussed. However, Bryan said he has only heard concerns about the process. He said it is almost “cruel” not to confirm this nomination and he thinks it is in the best interest of education and the state of Mississippi that they confirm Dr. Taylor.
In response to Senator Bryan, Senator Wiggins said the difference with this nomination is that lawmakers had a PEER report that was brought out at a previous hearing, asking, “At what point are we going to have the confirmation process respected?”
Wiggins agreed that it’s unfortunate that Dr. Taylor is in this position, but the Board of Education are the ones who put him in this position.
State Senator Sollie Norwood (D) said he had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Taylor and found him to be a man of great integrity. Norwood said while he has heard a lot about the process, he respects the Board members.
Norwood expressed that he trusts the Board and is very confident that if they are making this recommendation, with the work they have done in the community and education arena, he is not in a position to question why they made a decision.
State Senator Angela Hill (R) said if she remembered correctly, the biggest problem about Governor Tate Reeves’ recent nomination of Carra Powell to serve on the Board of Education was related to her being in-active in education. Hill said they could make the same statement about Dr. Taylor’s nomination. She said some believe Powell should be disqualified because she didn’t work in Mississippi’s schools, but yet they want to defend a similar candidate for a “more important position.”
Senator Wiggins said he thinks Dr. Taylor is a fine man and would certainly want to work with him. However, Wiggins said they have a constitutional duty to look at the way the selection process was handled and to not take it lightly.
“The Senate was given that power by the constitution. It’s the way in D.C., and I personally do not take it lightly, and this is the confirmation process,” Wiggins said.
Wiggins referenced the committee meeting held last week where they invited Dr. Robert Taylor, the new State Superintendent of Education, and Rosemary Aultman, Chair of the Mississippi State Board of Education, to have answer questions. Sen. Wiggins said what came out of that hearing was a PEER report, which argued that the Board’s selection process lacked transparency and provided specific instances that backed up their claim.
“I certainly respect Chairman Bryan, and he is a formidable Education member, and I think makes good points,” Wiggins said. “That’s how I see it. It goes back to Dr. Taylor didn’t have to be put in this situation, and he was, and you know, that’s something that is part of the process, I guess.”
Wiggins said if Dr. Taylor is appointed, he will support him, but, “this is the process and we’ll see where it goes.”
State Senator Michael McLendon (R) said he felt like it was a “slap in the face” to 4,500 DeSoto County School District employees and all those who have retired not to be nominated for the school board appointment but a “Tennessee Charter school liaison was,” speaking of the Governor’s nomination of Powell.
“Being consistent with that I feel the same way with the State Superintendent position,” McLendon said. “I’m appalled we can’t find one person that has worked in our schools not qualified to fill the position.”
Magnolia Tribune will continue to provide updates as the nomination moves through the Senate and the House.
You can watch the Senate Education Committee meeting below.