August 7, 2013 9:55:43 AM
The fate of the vacant Lee Middle School property is a step closer to being decided. The Columbus Municipal School District will host two open houses at the end of September.
The decision was made during a three and a half hour long executive session of a special meeting Tuesday morning. The meeting, which began at 7:30 a.m., lasted nearly six hours.
School board president Jason Spears said the decision to host the open houses was made, he said, because "we would like to gauge all interest in the property."
The board voted to host two open houses in September in an effort to give the public an opportunity to tour the building and surrounding acreage.
Speculation has surrounded the property since it was first listed for sale in January 2011.
Point of Grace Church offered $175,000 in June 2012, but the offer was rejected because it did not conform to state laws governing the sale of school property. Pastor Shane Cruse has continued to express interest in the property.
In recent months, Pastor R.J. Matthews has attended numerous board meetings and told the board his church, Kingdom Vision International, is also interested in the property. The church has not submitted an official bid to the district.
Cruse and Matthews have repeatedly questioned the district's intent for the Lee Middle School property, but neither pastor has been given a definite answer.
Spears declined to elaborate on the plans but said more would be revealed at the board's regularly- scheduled Aug. 19 meeting.
Also during the executive session the board declined former Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Hughes' request to be reinstated to the post.
Hughes was fired from his position as CFO on May 2, nine days after he and his former attorney Marc Amos met with now former superintendent Dr. Martha Liddell and board attorney David Dunn.
School board members first learned of Hughes' termination in an exchange of emails when board member Angela Verdell sent an email to Liddell and senior CMSD office staff inquiring into rumors about Hughes' status. In the email, Verdell also questioned the results of the April meeting between Liddell, Dunn, Hughes and Amos.
Liddell responded to the email by informing members of the school board that Hughes had been terminated. She did not elaborate on the decision to fire Hughes nor did she address the outcome of her meeting with Dunn, Hughes and Amos.
Liddell was fired on June 17.
Hughes filed a request for a public termination hearing but withdrew the request and instead asked for his job back two weeks ago.
Spears declined to elaborate on the board's decision, describing it as a personnel issue.
Sarah Fowler covers crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch. Follow her on Twitter @FowlerSarah
2. Lowndes voters to decide school bond issue COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Severstal plant sold to Indiana company COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Arrest report: 7-20-14 COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY