JSU’s Interim President Rod Paige delivers solid message at forum December 8, 2016 in Education, News
‘JSU must improve its image’
By Othor Cain
With a standing room only crowd at Koinonia Coffeehouse in Jackson last Friday, Jackson State University’s interim president and former U.S. Secretary of Education under President George W. Bush, Rod Paige, took to the mic to explain his vision for JSU, even though its [his vision] only temporary.
Paige shared his belief that JSU must get beyond the financial controversy it finds itself in and position itself to attract a top quality leader. “We must improve the image of our university and I believe that we can do that, Paige told the crowd. “We must put this financial issue to bed, that’s the only way we will get a good leader and good faculty members…we must fix our image.”
Paige began his tenure as president of JSU in November, after the resignation of Carolyn Meyers in late October amid alleged unauthorized spending and other budgetary concerns. At the time of her resignation, it was revealed that JSU’s cash reserves had plummeted by 89 percent in the last five years, landing at $4.2 million for the 2016 fiscal year that ended in the fall.
Meyers’ time at JSU has been riddled with compliments and complaints. To the criticism end, Meyers had been questioned heavily about the number of people who resigned or was terminated under her leadership and the large number of lawsuits leveled against the university, particularly those that included Vivian Fuller, a close friend of hers and former athletic director. To the accolades during Meyers time at JSU, the university received a number of praises for the reports of record enrollment and the school being named an Apple Distinguished School for 2013-15. Meyers was also named the Historic Black Colleges and Universities Digest’s Female President of the Year in 2014. Paige said he planned to introduce new policies and ensure that policies that are currently on the books are followed.
“Since I’ve been here, one of the biggest problems that I’ve found so far is that there are people that are not following policy and we want to change that,” he shared. Paige suggested that the financial hiccup JSU is experiencing isn’t fatal. “We can get past this if we take our medicine,” he said. “It is my job to ensure that the medicine that I equate to policy is taken or followed. If you don’t take your medicine as prescribed by the doctor, your chances for healing diminishes…as such if you don’t follow policy as set forth by the university and its governing authority, your chances for survival at JSU diminishes.”
With charter schools and school choice being new to Mississippi, one question from an audience member focused on Paige’s position on ‘school choice.’ “I’ve always supported that and I make no bones about it, students deserve a choice,” he added. Paige, a former superintendent of public schools in Houston also shared his belief that the money should follow the student. “I think that is necessary so that schools are equipped…if the student moves, the money should move,” he said. Paige said he planned to reach out to the Jackson Public Schools District and build on the relationship that exists. “I think it is a must, we must ensure this relationship is healthy and strong,” he shared. “JPS is a feeder district to JSU.”