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CMSD board agrees to meet with city council


Ward 5 councilman Kabir Karriem, left, and CMSD Board President Angela Verdell

Ward 5 councilman Kabir Karriem, left, and CMSD Board President Angela Verdell



Nathan Gregory



What began as a request from Columbus councilmen for a representative of the city school district to provide a quarterly report during regular meetings will lead to a meeting between the two boards. 


Councilman Kabir Karriem said during Tuesday's meeting that Columbus Municipal School District Board of Trustees President Angela Verdell made a recommendation to have the two boards meet in public so the school district can gather feedback from city leaders and stakeholders. 


"I hope we move expeditiously to make sure that happens so we can answer and ask those questions that we deem necessary to move our district forward," Karriem said during Tuesday's council meeting. "I hope we can offer some transparency so parents would have an opportunity to ask those questions to the board." 


A meeting date and time has not been announced. 


During a strategic planning retreat in December, one goal councilmen set for themselves was to call for reports from the school board. The purpose was to monitor the board's work to help raise district test scores and overall grade issued each year by the Mississippi Department of Education. 




Two unnamed city administrators to absorb retiring support clerk duties 


Two city administrators will take on the duties of a retiring support clerk, councilmen announced after an executive session during Tuesday's meeting.  


The two employees will each receive a $2,500 raise for absorbing the additional responsibilities, city attorney Jeff Turnage said. 


City officials would not name the retiring employee, nor would they say which administrators received the increased compensation. Taxpayer money is used to pay city employees and their salaries are public record. 


Chief operations officer David Armstrong was asked who the employees were and said he would not discuss personnel matters considered in executive session. Human resources manager Pat Mitchell was contacted Wednesday and asked who the employees were. Mitchell said she would have to seek permission from Turnage before she could do so. As of press time, the names have not been provided. 




Committee will decide citizen input time limits 


A five-person group will consider tweaks to the city's citizen input agenda and make a recommendation regarding time limits at a future meeting. Until earlier this year, there had been a three-to-five minute allotment for citizens who asked to be placed on the agenda to come before city councilmen and speak. During a March meeting, Columbus resident Berry Hinds was nearly done speaking to the council when he ran out of time and councilman Bill Gavin asked the council to give him enough time to finish his comments. Since then, there has been no time stipulation for those who get on the citizen input agenda. 


Karriem brought the matter before councilmen Tuesday suggesting that time limits be brought back into consideration.  


"I'm not trying to deny any resident any opportunity to talk to the mayor and council, but I think a process needs to be established," Karriem said. "Sometimes when they come up here, some people have problems with certain departments in the city and the department head has no idea that there's an issue. I think there needs to be a mechanism in place where that individual and department head and possibly David Armstrong meet to see if the situation can be resolved." 


Gavin suggested returning to a five minute allotment allowing for an extension if Mayor Robert Smith or a councilman asks for one.  


"We've had a lot of people...who have got up here and spoke well over five minutes and nothing was ever said," Gavin said. "That's gone on and on and on." 


Smith said while the decision is the council's to make unless he has to break a tie, he was in favor of either adhering strictly to a time limit or not having one at all. 


"If it comes to where I have to vote on it, it's going to be either/or," Smith said.  


Karriem, Gavin, councilman Joseph Mickens, Armstrong and Turnage will serve on the committee.


Nathan Gregory covers city and county government for The Dispatch.



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