January 17, 2013 12:35:18 PM
Snowy weather closed the city schools this morning, but a special meeting of the Columbus Municipal School District's board of trustees continued as planned.
During the brief meeting, board members voted 3-0 to approve two sites as e-centers for the Project 2020 dropout prevention program. Board members Jason Spears and Aubra Turner were not present.
The board approved Genesis Church and RTP Inc. as e-centers, where students ages 16-21 can earn credits toward their high school diplomas. Genesis Church, headed by pastor Darren Leach, is housed in the former Hughes Elementary School, and RTP leases the former Union Academy from the district.
A third site, Father's Child Ministries, is slated for approval, but it will not be finalized until the organization can secure the required amount of space for the program.
Superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell said Father's Child director Edward Yeates wants to lease space from RTP, but since RTP leases their space from the district, they must secure permission from the board to sublease it. Board Attorney David Dunn is expected to review the proposal next week.
The Project 2020 program fell under scrutiny in November when the board, citing legal concerns, rejected a $75,000 flow-through grant issued to Ginomai Ministries and donated to the district. Ginomai, a local nonprofit organization, is operated by Leach.
At the time, Liddell said she did not know whether the church intended to apply to be an e-center, and she did not know the relationship between Ginomai and Genesis.
The board later voted 4-1 to accept the grant, with Turner voting against the motion.
Liddell said she was pleased with the way the e-center applications were handled. Community members Steve Rogers of WCBI, Brenda Lathan of the Columbus-Lowndes Development Link, Jan Ballard of the United Way of Lowndes County, and former educator Ezra Baker reviewed the applications and selected the sites.
Liddell said they and district staff members toured the sites, checking them for technology and safety concerns.
The board also went into executive session during the meeting to discuss the potential sale of Lee Middle School, but no action was taken.
Carmen K. Sisson is the former news editor at The Dispatch.
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