by Calvin Ishee

Interviews for the next five year term for a position on the Pass Christian School Board was held Tuesday, February 11, 2020.  Unlike past vacancies, this position attracted four extremely high quality candidates. In fact it led Pass Christian Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott to proclaim, “best group of School Board candidates ever!”

The list of esteemed candidates include Chris Daniel, Hancock County District Attorney;  Hunter Dawkins, Publisher/Owner Gazebo Gazette; Margaret Jean Kalif, School Board President, incumbent and Halle Ricketts, Mississippi Licensed Certified Social Worker and Principle Consultant with HSR Consulting Group LLC.

Each candidate was given the opportunity to stand before the Mayor and Board of Alderman and present their case as to why they should be appointed to this extremely important position. As noted in a previous article, Marian Governor stated that “the candidates would make their presentations in alphabetical order” and that Board members would ask questions as they saw fit.

The following is a brief summary of the presentations provided by the candidates and questions asked by the Board:

Chris Daniel:  “Although not a lifelong resident of Pass Christian, my family consciously chose to move to Pass Christian and one of the primary reasons was because of its outstanding school system”. He went on to say that he had a “vested interest” in the school board because he had children currently enrolled in Pass Christian schools  He also stated that he was happy with the school district but noted that several parents had stated that perhaps at least one board member should have children currently attending a school within the district. Due to his experience with the State’s criminal system, he has a special  interest in “at risk” kids. He wants to work towards ensuring that children “never lose hope in education”.  Ward 3 Alderman Anthony Hall asked Daniel his thoughts on term limits and Daniel replied, “not needed”.

Hunter Dawkins:  “I grew up in the Pass and I know many of you as well as many of the parents and teachers currently living in Pass Christian. We have a great school district but it’s time for a change.”  He stated that the number one priority of the School Board was to “take care of our kids” and to “ensure their safety”.  He told the Board that his great education from high school through college, his seven years as a school teacher and coach, his business experience and support of the Pass Christian School District as well as his local and statewide connections would help make him an effective board member.

Dawkins offered up letters of recommendation from two local school board presidents as well as a state senator. When asked his thoughts about term limits Dawkins replied, “I pledge to only serve one term”.

Margaret Jean Kalif:  “I am a lifelong resident” and “I love what I do and do it from the bottom of my heart”.  Kalif has served on the Pass Christian School Board since 2010 and shared a robust list of accomplishments made during her two terms on the board. She further stated that she has three degrees in education and that her “passion was education”.  When asked about term limits, Kalif replied that the longer you serve the more you learn. Term limits should be self imposed. Kalif wants to continue riding the wave of success that’s occurred during her tenure.

Halle Ricketts: “I’m not from the Pass but from a small Mississippi town called Grenada”. Halle proceeded to tell the story of how he grew up and the impact his Grandmother had on him. He stated “I was a child of promise and not an at risk child”.  His Grandmother raised him on the Bible and stressed the value of a good education.  He outlined an extensive educational experience at several prestigious colleges. He also outlined a long and distinguished career in Special Education and Social work. Halle noted the importance of surveys and how they could be used to improve the educational experience for all students. A special focus of his is the need to educate and involve parents throughout the educational process. He believes in creating an educational culture that fosters trust, is safe, free from bullying and offers an “ethos of caring”.

The votes were tallied on Thursday, February 13, 2020 and on a vote of 3 number one ranking votes for Kalif, 1 for Dawkins and 1 for Ricketts, Kalif’s name will be forwarded to the Board for final approval at the February 18th Board of Alderman meeting.

Regardless of who was chosen, the Mayor and Board expressed their confidence that the Pass Christian School District will have a “high quality” Trustee in place.