Jackson City Council members met Wednesday to approve four new members of the Jackson Public School Board.


The Jackson City Council approved each of Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s nominees for the Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees during a special called meeting Wednesday morning.

With Ed Sivak, Letitia Simmons-Johnson, Barbara Hilliard and Jeanne Hairston confirmed the school board can now conduct district business.

“I see this as basically we’ve got one more shot at this,” Sivak told the council. “This is not going to be easy. It’s going to require us to use every tool we have at our disposal to make right decisions for our children.”

Hilliard stressed seeking new solutions for issues the school district faces: “For every problem, there is a solution. I think it’s incumbent upon each of us to find that solution and be about the business of doing what’s best for these children.”

Simmons-Johnson was Lumumba’s only appointee to the school board prior to the state takeover proceedings and indicated his intention to re-appoint her to the board at a previous council meeting.

Sivak is  a senior vice president at Hope Enterprise Corp. Hilliard is an International Baccalaureate coordinator at the Jackson school district. Hairston has held several positions in higher education, including at Millsaps College and JPS.

Each member represents one of the city’s seven wards, and they are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the city council. Lumumba still needs to appoint three more members to represent the other three wards of the city.

The new members will replace the previous school board — each member willingly resigned prior to Gov. Phil Bryant’s announcement of the partnership between his office, the City of Jackson, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

According to resignation letters obtained by Mississippi Today, each former school board member resigned on Oct. 25, a day before the governor’s announcement. Each member thanked Lumumba or expressed gratitude for his work to establish another option for the district.

Camille Stutts-Simms, who served as interim vice president, said she was excited the district was “poised for greatness and achievement” and she was ready to assist in any way she could.

Former JPS School Board member Jed Oppenheim

“As the lone board member whom your father appointed, I thought about him every day and tried my best to make him proud, but also serve with the integrity and solutions-oriented framework that he would have expected,” wrote former member Jed Oppenheim.

“Resigning does not mean I will stop serving our young people and the community. I appreciate the work you are doing, along with the other stakeholders, to make the district better and stronger for the 21st century.”

Contributing: Adam Ganucheau

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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.