The Board of Trustees for the Jackson Public School District can now conduct business again, after the city council confirmed the mayor’s nomination for a fourth board member.

Bankruptcy attorney Letitia Simmons Johnson will represent Ward 2 on the district’s seven-member school board. With her appointment, the board now has a quorum and is able to hold meetings and conduct business.

A series of resignations caused the board to halt all meetings until Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba nominated at least one replacement to establish a four-member quorum. Members of the Jackson City Council unanimously approved Johnson’s nomination and she can serve on the board at its upcoming meeting on Aug. 8.

At the meeting, Lumumba told the crowded room in City Hall that Johnson is someone who is deeply invested in education and seeing the district succeed.

“I want to assure the council and I want to assure the citizens of Jackson that this decision and this selection has not come out of the necessity of time and it was not a hasty decision,” Lumumba said. “Mrs. Johnson is an individual that I have been considering for quite some time.”

Interim superintendent Freddrick Murray (right) congratulates newly appointed school board member Letitia Simmons Johnson. Credit: Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

JPS interim superintendent Freddrick Murray said the city administration assured the district they would have a candidate in place by Aug. 1 for city council to confirm, and “they did what they said they would do.”

“We are very satisfied with the appointment. I think that Mrs. Johnson will add a lot of value to our board,” Murray said. “And of course, it allows us to move forward and do the business of our school system so that fourth person was critical.”

Johnson, who described herself as a “rural country girl from Magnolia, Mississippi,” addressed the council and took a few questions from members. Each of her five children have attended or currently attend JPS schools, she said.

City council and audience members applaud the children of Letitia Simmons Johnson during Tuesday’s meeting. Credit: Kayleigh Skinner, Mississippi Today

“They are the most important thing to me and because I trust JPS, I’ve trusted them with my children,” Johnson said. “The education they’ve received, the opportunities that they’ve received from JPS has given them an advantage.”

Four of her children attended the meeting with her husband, interim NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson.

When city council members Kenneth Stokes and Charles Tillman asked her what she would do to help the district as it faces possible state takeover and other problems, Johnson said she doesn’t know all of the issues because she’s not on the board yet but “JPS belongs to JPS” and she is committed to doing what is necessary to keep it that way.

“We live in Jackson and we’re also committed to the city of Jackson,” she said.

Johnson said she is particularly interested in expanding the special programs offered by the district so that each student has the chance to participate.

With its new quorum, the Board of Trustees will meet on Aug. 8 at 5:30 p.m.

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Kayleigh Skinner joined the Mississippi Today team in January 2017 as an education and legislative reporter and advanced to a senior staff member in her four years with the company. Before joining Mississippi Today, Kayleigh worked at The Hechinger Report, Chalkbeat Tennessee, and The Commercial Appeal. She has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, and BBC Newsday Radio to discuss her reporting.