Mississippi picks education head after Black nominee nixed

A day after Mississippi’s Republican-led Senate voted against confirming veteran educator Robert P. Taylor as state superintendent of education, the Mississippi State Board of Education named Mike Kent to fill the role on an interim basis Thursday.

The move to kill Taylor’s nomination angered some Black Democrats who said the rejection was at least partly because Taylor is Black and wrote years ago about the state’s racist history. Kent is white.

Senate Education Committee Chair Dennis DeBar, a white Republican, said he wanted to see a superintendent “with a better resume on improving low-performing schools.”

A news release published by the state Board of Education said Kent, who has served as its interim deputy superintendent since 2012, has 40 years of experience working in public education.

“Mike Kent has deep roots and experience in Mississippi’s public school system at the state and district level and is respected throughout the state for his wisdom and effective leadership,” said State Board of Education Chair Rosemary Aultman. “The Board is confident he will provide continuity in leadership of the Mississippi Department of Education during this transition.”

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday evening after the Senate vote, Taylor said senators in the past have confirmed all previous nominees for state superintendent and that he is disappointed this group of senators did not confirm him.

“The fact that they didn’t, that is what I have to live with,” Taylor said. “I will always respect the process.”

Kent will serve from April 3 through June 30. The state Board of Education plans on appointing a long-term interim superintendent to begin July 1.


Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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