June 18, 2014 10:50:29 AM
The Columbus Municipal School Board is conducting face-to-face interviews this week with candidates hoping to be the district's next superintendent.
In an emailed statement to The Dispatch late Tuesday, Jan Ballard, the school board's clerk, confirmed that the board is meeting with eight applicants. The interviews are taking place behind closed doors in executive session. The public is not permitted to attend, according to Ballard.
The school board has declined to reveal the identities of the eight people it has chosen to interview. The job comes with a salary in the range of $175,000.
"The next steps for the selection process will be based on the outcome of these interviews," Angela Verdell, the board's president, said in a statement. "The board is diligently moving forward to select the best possible candidate from the pool of applicants. We appreciate the public's support and patience throughout this process."
The interviews will be held today, Thursday and Monday at the Fairfield Inn in Columbus. According to Ballard, Wednesday's interviews will be held from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. Thursday's will be from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Monday's will be from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
According to sources within the district, current interim superintendent Edna McGill is one of the applicants being interviewed. The sources said they did not know the identities of the other applicants.
"The board has asked that we not discuss details of the process at this time," said McGill when reached this morning. "I will honor that request."
The school district, which serves more than 4,500 children, has been without a permanent superintendent since Dr. Martha Liddell was ousted by the school board a year ago this week. Liddell, who had held the post since 2011, was accused of using school funds for personal use. The board appointed McGill as interim superintendent following Liddell's exit.
In April, the board chose to pay Ray & Associates, an Iowa-based firm that according to its website specializes in educational leadership searches, $13,500 to help facilitate a search for the district's next superintendent. The deadline to apply for the job was May 30.
Nearly 60 people applied, according to the district.
Ray & Associates did not respond to a message seeking comment for this story. The district, though, told The Dispatch last week that the firm reviewed each application and selected a "qualified group for a more thorough investigation" to be conducted by the board.
"We conducted a screening process, and by consensus, agreed upon candidates we would like to interview face to face," the board said in a statement.
According to a job posting Ray & Associates posted to its website, materials that applicants submitted to the firm "will remain confidential to the extent allowed by law, which includes board review in a closed session of the board of education."
"After all applications have been reviewed and preliminary interviews conducted by the consulting firm, the names of the semifinalists will be presented to the Columbus Municipal School Board of Education for its consideration," the posting states. "Selection of candidates for final interviews is the sole responsibility of the board."
No other timeline on the search process has been made public, other than the board stating that it wants to have a superintendent in place by July 1.
2. Photo: Hwy. 45 wreck COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
3. Railroad co. investigating derailment in Columbus COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Man arrested after close call with school bus STARKVILLE & OKTIBBEHA COUNTY