COLUMBIA — James Whitt will join the Columbia School Board after being voted in at a special board meeting Thursday night.
Whitt replaces Rosie Tippin, who resigned in May because of health issues. He will be sworn in Thursday.
Whitt, who has lived in Columbia for seven years, says he believes he can bring a fresh look to the board.
“Before we moved here, we studied the school district extensively and were very pleased with what we found,” Whitt said. “There are some things that need work, and they are some areas I am interested in.”
Whitt believes the goals of his nonprofit organization, cPhase Sports Association, parallel those of the school board. cPhase Sports, which stands for "commitment in all phases of life," works to support youth not only athletically, but also academically, he said.
Whitt said one of the biggest challenges facing the school district is rebuilding confidence within the community. Using a future bond issue as an example, he emphasized the need to fortify the relationship between the board and the district.
"The Columbia community will certainly support a bond as long as they have confidence in the school board that they're making wise decisions," he said.
Other challenges Whitt said he would like to address are the increasing minority dropout rates and narrowing the academic achievement gap.
"I'm looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and helping out however I can," Whitt said.
Whitt is expected to serve until April 2010, at which point he could run for re-election.
The selection process began with a 10-minute interview with each of the eight applicants, which entailed answering four questions presented to them ahead of time and one randomly selected question. After all candidates were interviewed, the six board members each cast three votes. Philip Peters, Sam Phillips, and Whitt were selected as the three finalists from the preliminary votes.
The board members were then asked to vote for one of the three finalists. This resulted in a tie between Peters and Whitt. The board members weighed out the positives of each of the two candidates and, after much debate, took another vote. Whitt won with a 4-2 vote.