On Thursday, August 20, the Bibb County Board of Education met in a called meeting and voted to keep the millage rate at 17.9 for a sixth consecutive year. The measure did not draw any public comment. However, Thomas Hudson, a school board member representing District 5 (Southwest High School, Ballard Hudson, Riley and Hartley) raised the question once again about increasing minority participation and the awarding of contracts to more minority businesses with the Bibb County School System. An increasing number of Macon-based minority business owners have expressed an interest in being considered for more opportunities with the school system.
Hudson brought the issue up back in May and had challenged fellow board member — Republican Lester Miller of West Bibb’s District 4– to lead the discussion with Miller being head of committee that is designated to attract more minority businesses. However, thus far, things really haven’t progressed at all. Hudson explains only about one percent of contracts from the Bibb Board of Education are awarded to minorities. Overall, Bibb County is a majority-minority county in which African-Americans make up approximately 53 percent of the total county population and the Bibb County School System has a ratio in which more than seventy percent of the public school system is African-American.
School Board member Lester Miller heads the committee responsible for finding more minority vendors and WMAZ-TV reported that Miller was encouraged by the 100 Black Men’s presence at the board meeting and says all anyone has to do is follow the process that’s in place.
Back in May 2015, Hudson said the following to WMAZ-TV:
“If you have a committee, the committee needs to come together as a whole, formulate a process and bring recommendations back to the board.” “He’s made efforts, not the committee. It’s not a ‘he’ thing. It’s a ‘we’ thing,” Hudson said.
Bruce Riggins runs a relocation and a office furniture business. He says he’s been in business for decades, but has only been on the giving end of a relationship with the district. He says members of his group, the 100 Black Men of Macon-Middle Georgia often donate their time and money but are rarely contacted for work.
“The thing we’re trying to do is inform the community of what we do and we’re just trying to give everybody an economic opportunity,” said Riggins, who owns National Van Lines, Inc. “Economics and education, they go together. You can’t separate the two. You can try but it does not work.”
What can be done to change this? In the spring of 2016, there will be county elections which will involve Democratic primaries for various seats which include Board of Commissioners, the mayor and of course, the Board of Education. Six seats are up for re-election on the Board of Education which include District 2 and District 3 — majority-minority districts.
Even though funding charter schools have been a priority by this current school board, the issue of minority contracting and maintaining diversity is important and if some members are unresponsive then there should be a primary challenge to the Bibb County School Board early next year.