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Candidates throw hat in ring for school board appointment

 

Jason Browne

 

The Columbus City Council will discuss potential replacements for former school board member Julie Jordan at its meeting tonight. 

 

Jordan, who served nearly 10 years on the Columbus Municipal School District board of trustees, stepped down officially Jan. 5 to take a job with the Mississippi School Board Association in Jackson. Her replacement will be chosen by the City Council in February.  

 

The three applicants vying for the council''s appointment are Hosea Heard, an operator technician for Weyerhaeuser; Currie Fisher, an independent consultant; and Clifford Reynolds, principal of West Lowndes High School. 

 

Heard has lived in Columbus for 25 years. He graduated from Aberdeen High in 1980 and earned an associate''s degree in social sciences from Itawamba Community College. His daughters, Hanifah Johnson, 30, and Daaiyah Heard, 20, are both graduates of Columbus High. He serves as Partners In Progress liaison between Weyerhaeuser and West Lowndes Middle School. 

 

In 1996, Heard served on a parental advisory committee for the Title I program at Fairview Elementary, which issued opinions on current and pending policies. He was CMSD''s Parent of the Year for 1998-99. 

 

Heard says, if chosen, he''ll try to broaden parental involvement in school board matters. 

 

"I want to incorporate a little more with the parents and teachers. I have a particular slogan in mind: ''Do you Care?''" said Heard. "You don''t know what''s going on with the school board unless they''re having a meeting and it''s a main issue. My thing is to find out what''s going on." 

 

Fisher was born and raised in Columbus. She graduated from Hunt High School. Her mother, Lucille Brewer, ran the former Blue Goose Cafe and Motel on College Street in the Sandfield area. She graduated from the University of Maryland after briefly attending Mississippi University for Women in 1969. 

 

Fisher and her husband, Johnny Fisher, returned to Columbus three years ago. While away she spent 18 years working for the Delaware River Port Authority in Camden, N.J., managing the technology support desk, and the state attorney''s office in Baltimore. She now owns and operates Fisher Enterprises, a business consulting firm specializing in computer applications and workflow processing. 

 

She says her business experience and passion for students will ensure her contribution to the school board. 

 

"I know we have to have good direction, proper planning, budgeting and the interest of the children must be at heart. People must work together to establish that vision," said Fisher. 

 

Reynolds was also educated in Columbus public schools, graduating from Caldwell High in 1982. He served four years in the Army before receiving his bachelor''s degree in education from MUW and earning a master''s in school administration from Mississippi State University. 

 

He is in his second year as principal at West Lowndes but has eight years of administrative experience and 12 years of experience as a teacher. 

 

Reynolds says his work in minority school districts has prepared him for the challenges facing Columbus schools. 

 

"In Oktibbeha, 95 percent of the kids were eating free and reduced lunch. Me and my old staff (at East Oktibbeha High School) did well under the old accountability model. My high school and Starkville High, according to the state Department of Education, were the only area schools that met the growth mandate," said Reynolds.  

 

Columbus schools are about 89.5-percent black, and 86 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. The latest accountability label for the district, based on students'' performance on state tests, is "at risk of failing." 

 

"I feel Columbus could be doing much better than it currently is in the area of achievement. I''m concerned with safety issues at the middle school and high school, and I''m also concerned about the fiscal policy. Are we giving the best education for the tax payers'' dollars?" 

 

He says his experience could move Columbus schools forward, but insists his job as principal at West Lowndes represents no conflict of interest. 

 

School board members are paid $200 each month. In addition to a monthly scheduled board meeting, they are expected to attend meetings at local schools and are subject to special meetings, which can be called at any time. 

 

CMSD board member Glenn Lautzenhiser, a 19-year member, says the job involves more than just attending meetings. 

 

"It can be very time consuming. It depends on what issues we''re dealing with at the time. There are a lot of written materials we have to read and absorb," said Lautzenhiser. "And because we''re on the school board, people call us and ask us questions or stop us in the grocery store and want to talk. We need people who are willing to spend the time." 

 

Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens says he''d like to put a mother with children in the school district on the board. None of the three applicants have children in Columbus schools. 

 

"I know this is a multimillion-dollar business, but at the same time we''ve still got our kids in there, and I think a mother could inject some new ideas," said Mickens. 

 

Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box has voiced his support for Fisher. 

 

"(The appointee) needs to be someone who came up through the public schools. Someone who understands our system and is familiar with Columbus and is a good business person, because there''s a tremendous budget they''re responsible for," said Box. "There''s plenty of education professionals. We need someone with some business sense." 

 

Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart says the council must choose someone with both business knowledge and familiarity with public schools, but not necessarily familiarity with Columbus schools. 

 

"I hope it''s someone who comes in that has some connection with the public school system and what''s going on. Not just what''s in the news," said Stewart. "There are people that move here that have been in a good school system and have the knowledge to get good programming and projects going."

 

 

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Reader Comments

Article Comment Sue2 commented at 1/20/2010 10:07:00 PM:

"Me and my old school..." How can Mr. Reynolds have been trained as an educator, have taught for 12 years and not use proper grammar?

 

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